September 23, 2023
By Maryam Missal
Concerns about the legality of journalist Khalid Jamil’s arrest have been raised, as lawyers and journalists point out violations of the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) orders and a negation of the Constitution of Pakistan in the journalist’s apprehension by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday.
On Friday, the FIA was granted a two-day physical remand of the ABN’s Islamabad Bureau Chief by a judicial magistrate. Jamil was charged under section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) read with section 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). He was formally accused of using his Twitter account to incite anti-state sentiments.
The first information report (FIR) was filed by Anees-ur-Rehman, a Technical Assistant at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Reporting Cell in Islamabad.
However, section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) states that “no court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under section 505 of the same Code unless, upon complaint made by order of, or under authority from, the Central Government or the concerned Provincial Government, or some officer empowered in this behalf by either of the two Governments.
Advocate High Court, Saqib Jillani, confirmed while speaking to Voicepk.net that section 505 of the PPC requires a complaint made by the central or provincial government or some officer empowered on behalf of either government.
“In case the requirements of CrPC section 196 are not fulfilled, the case cannot proceed in any court, and the accused’s lawyer can apply for the quashing of the FIR in court,” he stated. He also pointed out that to try someone under section 20 of PECA, a blatant lie has to be stated.
“Merely sharing one’s opinion on social media does not fall under the category of false information used to incite violence.”
In May 2022, the Islamabad High Court mandated the FIA to consult the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) or the respective journalists’ organizations before pursuing any complaints against journalists.
Arshad Ansari, General Secretary of PFUJ, while speaking to Voicepk.net, said that Khalid Jamil’s arrest by the FIA was a breach of the Islamabad High Court’s ruling.
“PFUJ had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court against the harassment of a television anchorperson by the FIA,”
Ansari stated. “In response to that petition, the former Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court Athar Minhullah issued a verdict restricting authorities from harassing journalists in the previous year.”
Verifying Ansari’s statement, Saqib stated that Jamil’s arrest was not in compliance with Islamabad High Court’s orders.
Moreover, no evidence of notice by the Federal or provincial government authorizing the FIA to take action against Khalid Jamil has surfaced.
PFUJ stage protest
On Friday, PFUJ staged a protest in front of the Islamabad Press Club, demanding the immediate release of the ABN’s Islamabad Bureau Chief. Journalists from the capital and other cities joined the protest in solidarity with their senior colleagues.
Addressing the protesters, PFUJ President Afzal Butt emphasized that the journalist community has stood tall for press freedom since 1950, and they would not compromise on their creed.
Butt also cited the Islamabad High Court’s order, requiring the Federal Investigation Agency to consult PFUJ. He also shared that since then, four meetings have been held between the Federal Investigation Bureau and PFUJ on the matter, and a protocol was established after mutual consensus.
In addition, Arshad Ansari told Voicepk.net that if Khalid Jamil was not released immediately, nationwide protests would be called.