August 11, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: A court in Karachi has discharged Ammad Yousuf, director of news of ARY News channel, in a sedition case arising from a statement made by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader Shahbaz Gill on the channel.
Ammad Yousuf was arrested from his DHA residence on in Karachi on August 10 following the registration of a first information report (FIR) at Malir Goth police station in Karachi against ARY News chief executive officer Salman Iqbal, Director News Ammad Yousuf, show host Arshad Sharif, Islamabad bureau chief Khawar Ghuman and programme producer Adeel Raja for abetting in a conspiracy with Shahbaz Gill to cause a mutiny in the military.
Ammad Yousaf was brought to a court in Malir in an armoured personal carrier. Police requested the court to grant physical remand of Ammad Yousaf in the sedition case. Naeem Qureshi, counsel for Ammad Yousaf, told the court that the inclusion of his client’s name in the case was malicious.
The counsel said Ammad Yousaf had no role in the whole affair. He contended that the Supreme Court judgment had barred registration of multiple cases on a single incident, adding that an identical FIR had been filed with a police station in Islamabad.
Naeem Qureshi requested the court to discharge Ammad Yousaf in the case under Section 63 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The court accepted the request for discharge filed by the counsel. The court ordered Ammad Yousaf to deposit a surety bond of Rs 100,000 for his release in the case. A video shared on social media shows a policeman removing handcuffs of Ammad Yousaf after being released by the court in the case.
The FIR was registered under sections 120 (criminal conspiracy), 124-A (sedition), 131 (abetting mutiny), 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief), 506 (criminal intimidation), 121 (conspiracy against State), 109 (Punishment of abetment) and 34 (acts done by several persons in common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
In the FIR, the complainant, Memon Goth SHO Ateequr Rehman, said on he saw a viral clip on social media featuring an ARY News show wherein PTI’s Shahbaz Gill had made “hateful remarks” against the army August 8. Arshad Sharif and Khawar Ghumman participated in the show as analysts. He claimed that by expressing such views, PTI and ARY News were creating a “divide” between sections of armed forces, sowing hatred and rebellion in the army and also threatening government officers against following the government’s directives. Reportedly, Arshad Sharif has gone to Dubai while Khawar Ghuman and Adeel Raja have gone into hiding following registration of the sedition case.
Police arrest wife of Shahbaz Gill’s driver
Islamabad police have also arrested the wife of Gill’s driver along with another individual on charges of assaulting and obstructing officials who had come to residence of Shahbaz’s in-laws to recover the PTI’s leader cell phone. Shahbaz Gill is on physical remand after his arrest on August 8.
Media bodies condemnation
Local and international media rights organisations have condemned registration of cases against ARY News journalists and management.
In a statement, Steven Butler, senior program consultant of Committee to Protect Journalists, said Pakistan needs to get out of the habit of filing legal cases, throwing journalists into jail & blocking programming distribution in response to on-air comments it doesn’t like. “Authorities should free Ammad Yousuf and drop legal proceedings against other ARY journalists, executives,” he said. Butler said it was time for Pakistan to fully honour its commitment to press freedom.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Arshad Ansari strongly condemned the arrest of ARY News Director Ammad Yousuf. Karachi Union of Journalists president Shahid Iqbal and general secretary Fahim Siddiqi urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the suspension of ARY News service and Ammad Yousuf’s arrest.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also opposed the “disruptions” to ARY News in a tweet. “Pemra must refrain from arbitrarily taking channels off the air and protect all media houses’ right to freedom of expression, responsibly exercised,” it posted on twitter.
The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) in a statement termed the actions by the authorities a serious threat to freedom of expression.
SHC orders restoration of ARY News transmission
On August 10, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to immediately restore ARY News transmission across Pakistan.
ARY News went off air in many parts of the country on Monday evening without any prior notice by authorities.
The SHC bench heard the plea related to the suspension of ARY News and issued directives to cable operators for the immediate restoration of TV channel’s transmission. In a 10-page order, the court also suspended the show-cause notice issued to ARY News by Pemra. The SHC also stopped media regulatory authority from suspending the license of TV channel till the next hearing. The court also issued notice to PEMRA and deputy attorney general and adjourned the hearing till August 17.
ARY News issues clarification
In a statement, the ARY News distanced itself from Shahbaz Gill’s statement that he made on the channel. According to the clarification, comments or opinions of any individual televised by the network do not represent the channel’s policy. Shahbaz Gill’s statement was his personal opinion not ARY’s editorial policy, it added.