CRACKDOWN ON JOURNALISTS POST-PECA

Month/Year
Government Announcements Initiate Crackdown and Regulate Social MediaDisappearances/Summons/Detentions/FIRs/Arrests Based on/Linked to Social Media PostsContent Restriction: Website Blocking, Requests to Companies, Twitter Notices
Petitions Challenging PTA and FIA Action, and PECA
January 2017Jan 25: Khabaristan Times, a satirical website, blocked.

According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2016, Pakistan made 1,002 requests to Facebook for content restriction.

According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2016, Pakistan (government agency, police, other) made 13 removal requests to Twitter and reported 19 accounts. No content, tweet or account was withheld.

According to Google’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2016, Pakistan made 6 requests to Google for account removal.
May 2017Journalist Taha Siddiqui filed W.P. No. 1956/2017 before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against intimidation and harassment by the FIA. As stated in the petition, on 18.05.2017 Siddiqui received a phone call from an officer of the FIA’s counterterrorism wing, instructing him to appear before them for interrogation regarding his “opinion on certain issues” and “journalistic pieces” by him. According to the petition, the officer acted without lawful authority. The IHC issued notices to the FIA to appear before the court on 29.05.2017 and restrained them from harassing the petitioner, instructing them to proceed in accordance with the law. Despite court orders, the FIA issued a summon directing Siddiqui to appear before them for questioning, failure to do which would carry legal consequences.
June 2017Journalist Zafarullah Achakzai, an employee of Daily Qudrat, was arrested for allegedly posting “anti-army” content on social media. He was granted bail on July 4 against a bond amount of Rs. 80,000.
C.P. 3927/2017 filed by nine citizens before the Sindh High Court (SHC) against the Ministry of Interior and FIAchallenging the detentions and arrests of activists and journalists under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016. The petitioners viewed FIA action as a violation of due process of law and fundamental rights. The petition argued that criticism of the armed forces did not constitute a criminal offence, nor did it fall within the exceptions to Article 19. The petitioners contended the “government and the FIA, through both their statements and their actions, have created a chilling effect on freedom of speech and deliberately hindered the public exercise of the rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution by obstructing the right of citizens to even engage in constructive criticism.”
Notices were issued to the FIA and they were directed to submit a response. On 06.07.2019, the FIA submitted a response to the court.
July 2017Enquiry No. 38/2017 initiated by FIA Cyber Crime Circle Karachi against Sajid Ali Siddiqui, former team member of TV program titled “Khufia”, aired on Abb Takk, on the complaint of the channel Abb Takk. Sajid Ali Siddiqui was accused of allegedly releasing edited videos of behind the scenes of the show which suggested that the “Khufia” team was involved in planting spy cameras, bullets and other evidence against the people whose premises were raided on the show.
Pakistan Press Foundation moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) through W.P. 2529/2017 to declare “Sections 9, 10, 11, 20, 25, 26 and 37 of the PECA to be ultra vires of the Fundamental Rights Chapter and in particular Article 19 of the Constitution.” The petition argued these provisions violated the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Pakistan’s international commitments “as a State Party to the ICCPR” and were therefore “illegal and unconstitutional.”
Notices were issued to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom and the Ministry of Law and Justice through the deputy attorney general on 10.12.2018. The case is fixed for reply by the Federation of Pakistan
commitments “as a State Party to the ICCPR” and were therefore “illegal and unconstitutional.”
Notices were issued to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom and the Ministry of Law and Justice through the deputy attorney general on 10.12.2018. The case is fixed for reply by the Federation of Pakistan

May 2018
Facebook blocked Dawn.com’s Facebook post linked to a politician Javed Hashmi’s statement’s criticising judiciary for allegedly “violating local laws.” The post was then restored on 12 May 2018 with Facebook apologising for the content being "incorrectly restricted."

September 2018
FIR No. 05/2018 lodged against former Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, Hans Masroor, the owner of a web channel Naya Pakistan, and the producer of the channel Ahsan Saleem U/S 10(a), 11 and 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016 R/W Sections 109 and 509 of the PPC, for allegedly running “anti-judiciary” content on their channel.
November 2018Twitter sent a notice to Taha Siddiqui citing some of his tweets as being in violation of Pakistani law.

Twitter sent a notice to columnist Gul Bukhari for her tweet in which she criticized the government’s lack of action against Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) Chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
December 2018The Urdu and Pashto websites of international news organisation Voice of America (VOA) were reportedly blocked in Pakistan. An official who works for VOA said that the Pashto website had been blocked a few months ago, “however, the Urdu website became inaccessible last week after the coverage of a press conference held by the leader of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), Mohsin Dawar. Initially, we received complaints that the website was not accessible at some places, but later it was completely blocked”.

January 2019
Twitter sent a notice to journalist Mubashir Zaidi against one of his tweets regarding the murders of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa SP Tahir Dawar and MQM leader Ali Raza Abidi for being "in violation of Pakistani law".
February 2019FIR No. 24/2019 U/S 11 and 20 of PECA R/W 123-A and 500 PPC lodged against Rizwan Razi for allegedly posting “defamatory and obnoxious” content against the judiciary, government institutions and intelligence agencies.
A magisterial court on 10 February 2019 granted bail to journalist Rizwan-ur-Rehman Razi, declining FIA’s request to remand him into its custody for 10 days.
March 2019A letter by Director NR3C, dated 13 March 2019 ordered all additional directors of the FIA in Rawalpindi to launch inquiries against six journalists/social media activists, namely Matiullah Jan, Murtaza Solangi, Azaz Syed, Ammar Masood, Umer Cheema and Ahmed Waqas Goraya, for using the picture of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as their display picture, which was “disrespectful” towards a “visiting dignity/guest.” The following groups and its members were allegedly “found most active on social media against Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan: Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM), Imamia Students Organization (ISO), Hizbul Tahrir Pak and Tameer-i-Watan Party.
April 2019FIR No. 06/2019 lodged against Shahzeb Jillani U/S 10(a), 11 and 20 PECA R/W PPC 34, 109, 500 for allegedly making “defamatory remarks against institutions of Pakistan” on a news programme. Jillani secured pre-arrest bail which was confirmed on 30 April 2019 by the Sessions Court South Karachi.
May 2019In FIR 06/2019 against Shahzeb Jillani, Sections 10(a) and 11 were withdrawn from the final challan by the FIA submitted on 07 May 2019, only a non-cognizable section Section 20 of PECA remained. On 18 May 2019, FIR No. 06/2019 was disposed off as C class.
September 2019Journalist Muhammad Basit Khan summoned by FIA Peshawar to appear in Enquiry No. 537/2019 initiated against him. The summons do not say what the charge against the journalist is. Mr. Basit Khan was ordered to attend enquiry on 30 September 2019.
January 2020Journalist Azharul Haq arrested by the FIA over allegedly sharing “anti-state” content on Facebook. An FIR was lodged against him under Sections 11 and 20 of the PECA 2016, read with Section 505 of the PPC. A local court in Lahore on 17 January 2020 granted the FIA three-day physical remand.

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