August 7th, 2021
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and opposition parties on Saturday strongly condemned arrest of two senior journalists Syed Imran Shafqat and Amir Mir reportedly by the Federal Investigation Agency from their residences in the city. The FIA said both journalists were released on bail, pending an ongoing investigation.
According to the FIA’s Lahore Cyber Crime Wing statement, Shafqat and Mir were arrested on two first investigation reports registered with the agency. The charges related to offences under sections 509, 469, 500, 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code and sections 11, 13, 20, 24 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act. “Cases against both accused were registered over their alleged contempt of superior court judges, Pakistan Army and women,” the FIA said. The agency said the accused operated two youtube channels that broadcasted programmes which undermine the foundations of national security institutions and superior judiciary. The programmes tried to weaken public trust in the institutions and further more showed disdain towards women, the FIA said. The agency said both accused were released on bail and it would soon submit a challan with additional evidence in court.
In a tweet senior journalist Hamid Mir announced that the FIA had released both journalists. “FIA just announced that they released journalists Amir Mir and Imran Shafqat on bail. According to FIA press release both journalists were arrested for their alleged contempt against Judiciary, Army and some “women” but FIA never mentioned the names of the “women”,” Mir said.
In a statement earlier to the release, the PFUJ announced to hold countrywide protest from Monday against growing incidents of journalists’ abductions in Pakistan. The abductors were reportedly from Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which, PFUJ, believes is involved in taking actions against the journalists at the behest of the government, the statement said.
PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi urged the federal government to take immediate measures for the release of two Lahore based journalists Imran Shafqat and Amir Mir and take concrete measures to protect the journalists. “Such illegal and unwarranted arrests shows government’s disrespect towards the freedom of press, free speech and expression in the country and such draconian measures are against the civil liberties guaranteed in 1973 Constitution of Pakistan” the PFUJ said.
The PFUJ leaders said that misuse of state authorities and agencies for suppressing the voices of dissent is indicative of denial of human rights and misuse of powers which will be resisted by all means.
“Agencies like FIA are meant for protecting the nation’s interests, not for abduction of civil society, journalists and right activists, ” the PFUJ said.
The PFUJ leaders noted that this was not the first time that such abductions have taken place during the Tehrike Insaf regime and recalled that since the installation of Imran Khan as prime minister, the FIA is being used to harass Journalists and media workers.
PFUJ has demanded strong action against abductors of Imran Shafqat and Amir Mir and their immediate release and also asked all the Union of Journalists and Press Clubs to arrange countrywide protests on Monday against growing acts of forced disappearances and abduction of journalists and media workers in the country.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called for the immediate release of the journalists. “The fact that two journalists – Imran Shafqat and Amir Mir – have been taken into custody by the FIA in the space of one day is inexcusable. It is no coincidence that both are known as dissenting voices. We demand that Mr Shafqat and Mr Mir be released immediately, “ the HRCP tweeted.
Senior journalist Munizae Jahangir termed the arrests as another assault on already=cornered journalists in the country. “Shameful & another assault on journalists that must be condemned. Any Govt that victimizes journalists is not democratic.PTI must stop its crackdown on freedom of speech & stop becoming a predator of journalists,” Jahangir said in her tweet.
The opposition parties also slammed the reported arrests saying the government was bent upon silencing critical voices in the media. Bilawal Bhutto, chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party, accused the federal government of political victimization. “Strongly condemn the arrest of journalists #AmirMir and #ImranShafqat . Imran Khan continues victimization of political opponents and media critics to hide his incompetence and failures. Demand release immediately,” Bhutto said in his tweet.
Maryam Nawaz Sharif, vice president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, called the arrest of the two journalists an undeclared martial law in the country. “The kidnapping of two journalists on the same day is very worrying. The protection of the journalistic community is the responsibility of the state. Failure to do so is criminal. Enforced disappearance of someone for criticizing is an undeclared martial law. Whom further you would silence? Now, the whole country is speaking up. These actions will not leave you bereft,” Maryam Nawaz tweeted.
The arrests also drew widespread condemnation on social media. After the news, hashtags #PressUnderAttack, #JournalismIsNotACrime, #BringBackAmirMir, #bringbackimranshafqat·were trending in support of the journalists.