FIA to Withdraw Cases Against Journalists Imran Shafqat and Amir Mir, AGP Assures Supreme Court

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Islamabad: (PPF) During a Supreme Court hearing on March 25, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan assured that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would soon withdraw cases against journalists Syed Imran Shafqat and Amir Mir. Both journalists had previously been implicated in allegations related to cybercrimes.

The assurance came during a session before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justices Irfan Saadat Khan and Naeem Akhtar Afghan hearing the challenges raised by the Press Association of the Supreme Court’s (PAS) regarding  the “roving inquiries” by FIA and summons being issued by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on “vague allegations” of the so-called explicit and malicious campaign against the superior judiciary and its judges.

The original FIRs against the journalists, Shafqat and Mir were filed in August 2021 under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA). They were accused of making critical remarks against state institutions in their vlogs.

During the proceedings, CJP Isa expressed concern over the use of cybercrime laws to target journalists. The CJP also inquired about the seriousness of the case against Shafqat, to which the AGP responded that there were no substantial grounds for the case.

The Supreme Court also addressed a controversial petition for media regulation, initiated by a group from Chakwal, which included high-ranking officials. The CJP labeled the conglomerate as an “odd assembly,” pointing out the inopportune timing of their demands amidst ongoing judicial reviews concerning media liberties.

During the proceedings, the court expressed skepticism about the motives behind the petition, questioning its genuine intent towards preserving media freedom. Additionally, the court criticized the withdrawal of a harassment complaint by a journalist , highlighting a troubling trend of allegations made without the willingness to formally pursue them.

Senior counsel Salahuddin Ahmed contended that the use of Section 20 under Peca often breaks the rule of Article 19, which is about freedom of expression. He said this section is wrongly used a lot to scare people and should be removed. He also mentioned that the FIA, when dealing with cybercrime laws, treats smaller offenses as more serious ones, which leads to people being arrested when they shouldn’t be.

CJP Isa emphasized the critical role of the judiciary in distinguishing between flawed laws and their misapplication, clarifying that the Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction to prevent FIR registrations outright. However, each case’s merits will be diligently examined. The chief justice regretted the delay in addressing the harassment of journalists, suggesting that prompt action could have averted the current predicament.

The hearing has been adjourned until March 27.

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