July 10, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Two Karachi-based digital journalists who have been served notices by the FIA say they have still not been provided with a copy of complaint and the required documents, in an inquiry against them by the FIA. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Karachi Union of Journalists have expressed concerns at the FIA notices.
The cybercrime wing of the federal agency issued a notice dated June 25 to Mashhud Aslam, editor, and Ashfaq-ur-Rahman Qureshi, news editor, of the Custom News to appear before the inquiry officer in a defamation complaint under the cybercrime law. “The notice of attendance did not mention details of the complaint against us,” Aslam told Voicepk.net.
On 29th June, he said they met the FIA officer and asked him to provide details and evidence if any provided by the complainant. However, the FIA official did not provide them with a copy of the complaint but issued them a second notice on 7th July. “The FIA officer also harassed me on the phone saying ‘another heavy-duty complaint’ has been lodged against me,” Aslam said.
In his reply to the second notice, Aslam stated that the FIA was bound to provide copy of the complaint, documents, and evidence to an alleged person under the orders of the Supreme Court. He said the second notice was issued to put him under pressure on the dictation of some influential persons.
Mashhud Aslam said they met the FIA official on 9th July for the second time and provided him with their written replies to the notice. “However, the third notice issued on the same day makes no mention of the statements submitted by us to the FIA official.
Aslam also pointed out in his reply to the FIA that as a social media journalist he has immunity in offences under Section 18 of Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act relating to offences against the dignity of a natural person.
PFUJ, KUJ slam FIA notices
Taking exception to rise in incidents of FIA notices to journalists, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi said now it was clear that the incumbent government was bent upon denying the freedom of speech and press and could not face criticism, which was a hallmark of transparency and accountability.
“It is a strange situation and needs serious attention of all stakeholders and political leadership of the country,” the PFUJ said.
The PFUJ noted that senior journalist and anchorperson Nadeem Malik was earlier issued notice by the anti-terrorism wing of the FIA and now these two Karachi-based journalists were being harassed through notices by the FIA.
“The current regime is misusing state authorities and institutions against the media for denying freedom of the press and free speech and expression, which will be resisted at any cost,” the PFUJ said.
The PFUJ leadership expressed alarm at the rising incidents of violence against journalists in Islamabad and Sindh province, calling upon Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and the Sindh government to take notice of the conduct of the FIA officials. “The FIA officials were involved in illegal actions against journalists and violating the court orders, issued by the Islamabad High Court and the Sindh High Court,” the PFUJ said.
In a separate statement, the Karachi Union of Journalists also slammed the notices to senior journalists Mashhud Aslam, editor, and Ashfaq-ur-Rahman Qureshi, news editor, of the Custom News website. The KUJ said the Islamabad High Court had restrained the FIA from taking action against critical reporting done by journalists. The KUJ called upon the federal interior minister and the IHC chief justice to take note of harassment of journalists being committed by the FIA officials.