Pakistan: Inquiry brought against Pakistani journalist under cybercrime act

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has begun an inquiry into Pakistani journalist and BOL News anchor Sami Ibrahim for allegedly posting "anti-state" recordings and remarks on social media. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Pakistan affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), urge the authorities to immediately withdraw the inquiry against Ibrahim.

BOL News anchor Sami Ibrahim . Credit: facebook.com/SamiAbraham

The FIA served the anchor with an attendance notice to appear at the FIA Reporting Centre in Islamabad on May 13. According to the summons, Ibrahim purposely and publicly released an alleged video on his YouTube channel, which has approximately 500,000 subscribers, in which "false and frivolous" charges were made against key government officials.

The inquiry, launched on May 6, was begun in accordance with Section 20 of the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, which criminalises defamation, and Section 505 of the PPC, which prohibits ‘statement conducive to public mischief’.

"You have built a narrative with ill intent to cause intimidation ... and unrest between government officials/personnel of armed forces and the general public," the notice said.

The FIA also issued a press release on Sunday, accused Ibrahim of spreading misinformation about state institutions. "He has made blatant attempts to inspire unrest among members of the armed services. While overseas, he has sought to sow discord in Pakistan through the media,” said the FIA in the release.

The FIA stated that Ibrahim would have the option to defend himself in the investigation, which will be concluded if he is successful. If the offence is proven, a case will be filed against him, and he will be detained and convicted in court. If he fails to appear, it will be assumed that he has nothing to submit in his defence, and the procedure outlined in Section 174 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) would be applied against him.

If Ibrahim is found to have committed an offence, an Interpol red alert will be issued as he is currently overseas, and his name will be added to the Exit Control List (ECL), the statement added.

The FIA also advised Pakistani expats not to "create turmoil" in the nation while overseas, adding that their social media posts should not be "offensive or seditious,” or action will be taken against them.

PFUJ President GM Jamali and Secretary General Rana Azeem said: “The government should refrain from issuing notices to the journalists to curb freedom of speech and expression. The PFUJ shall protest this untoward attitude of the government agencies to control the media if the FIA continues its operation against journalists.”

The IFJ said: “The increasing number of legal cases registered against journalists in Pakistan is concerning, with an evident suppression of press freedom . The IFJ urges the Pakistani authorities to withdraw its inquiry into Sami Ibrahim and to cease its use of the PECA legislation against journalists and media workers.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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