The cases against the journalists were filed with police in areas of the Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, defined by a pattern of similar allegations from residents, who submitted First Information Reports (FIR). Several cases alleged that the journalists were inciting anti-national sentiments by disparaging the Pakistan Army and state institutions.
Police in Hyderabad launched a FIR against ARY News anchorperson Arshad Sharif on May 21, accusing him of criticising state institutions, according to ARY NEWS. "His remarks on Matiullah Jan's show violate sections 505, 153, and 131 of the penal codes," said the police stated, adding that the case has been filed on the complaint of citizen Tayyab Hussain.
Another journalist associated with the same news network, Sabir Shakir, was booked by Mirpur Khas police on identical allegations, alleging comments critical of state institutions.
The case was filed at Mehran police station by civilian Mahmood Hassan under sections 154, 505, and 131 of Pakistan’s Penal Code (PPC).
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) heard the case against Shareef in the late evening of May 21, granting the journalist protective bail until May 23. The court’s decision was made in response to a number of ‘suspicious’ FIRs filed the same day against Sharif, Shakir and Sami Ibrahim on grounds of sedition.
The following day, Express News anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan had a similar FIR filed against him at Dhabeji police station, under sections 131, 153, 452 and 505 of the PPC, for alleged incitement to mutiny, trespassing, and provocation to cause riot.
PFUJ President GM Jamali and Secretary General Rana Azeem said: “Threatening media men by registering fake cases is just an attempt to gag vocal media persons and tantamount to curb the basic right of freedom of speech and expression. We demand the government and responsible authorities to abstain such tactics otherwise a country wide protest campaign will be launched.”
The IFJ said: “The number of sedition cases registered against journalists and media workers is a worrying trend intended to suppress press freedom in Pakistan. The IFJ urges the Pakistani authorities to immediately withdraw the cases against Arshad Sharif, Sami Ibrahim, Imran Riaz Khan and Sabir Shakir, and cease the use of restrictive legislation to arbitrarily persecute journalists.”