Islamabad High Court restrains FIA to arrest journalist over alleged objectionable tweets

The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah also summoned the inquiry officer of the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing on October 12 along with the record against the journalist.

October 09, 2020 05:03 pm | Updated 05:04 pm IST - Islamabad:

A view of the Islamabad High Court.

A view of the Islamabad High Court.

A Pakistani court has restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting a physically-challenged journalist over his alleged objectionable tweets.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued the orders on Thursday on a petition filed by journalist Rana Mohammad Arshad, directing that no adverse action shall be taken against the petitioner, the Dawn newspaper reported. The court adjourned the hearing in the case till October 12, it said.

The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah also summoned the inquiry officer of the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing on October 12 along with the record against the journalist. A panel of lawyers representing the journalist informed the court that the petitioner was a physically-challenged person and working as a journalist.

They said that Mr. Arshad was being harassed by the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing because of opinions and views expressed by him on social media. According to one of the lawyers of the petitioner, the FIA has served the journalist an undated notice.

The counsel also termed the notice mala fide due to its vague content, the report said. He said that the journalist was summoned by the FIA and later his house was raided by officials of the agency.

However, it was not clear why the authorities wanted to arrest the journalist. Justice Minallah observed: The profession of the petitioner, fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and the manner in which the respondents (FIA) have so far proceeded in this case, prima facie, raises questions of public importance, particularly abuse of power under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

The court directed the registrar office to issue notices to the FIA authorities. The officer who has been entrusted (with) inquiry of the case is directed to appear on the next date fixed and explain under what authority of law the undated notice was issued followed by raiding the house of the petitioner as has been alleged, the court order said.

The officer shall also explain why the alleged commission and omission on part of the petitioner were not disclosed in the undated notice, it said.

According to the report, this is the first case in Islamabad in which a legal committee constituted by the Pakistan Bar Council for defence of journalists has filed a petition.

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