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Pakistan: Criminal complaint filed against another journalist for his posts on social media

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Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is disturbed by the registration of yet another case against a journalist for his allegedly negative and anti-state posts on social media. While each of the cases has been lodged by a different individual, they appear to be lodged under some similar sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.

In the third criminal complaint registered against a journalist in the last few days, a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against journalist Asad Ali Toor on September 12 for “posting negative propaganda against the state, Pakistani institutions and the Pakistan Army on his social media account,” Dawn reported.

On September 9, a case was registered against Express Tribune News Editor Bilal Farooqi in Karachi and on September 11, a criminal complaint was
registered against former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman Absar Alam in Jhelum.

The FIR against Toor was registered under Sections 499 (defamation), 500 (punishment for defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the PPC and Sections 37 (unlawful online content), 20 (offences against dignity of a natural person) and 11 (hate speech) of PECA.

The case has been registered by a resident of Rawalpindi, Hafiz Ehtesham Ahmed who alleged that the journalist had “used derogatory language for high-level government institutions, including the Pakistan Army which is a grave crime according to the law”.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also condemned the registration of the case against Toor and said: “The alarming increase in such actions against journalists confirms that the government is bent on muzzling freedom of expression.” HRCP demanded that the rights of citizens be respected and “both the government and state adopt course correction”.

Toor has been granted week-long protective bail by Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah and he was ordered to approach the relevant court within a week.