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PPF welcomes Asad Ali Toor’s release on bail; urges authorities to safeguard the rights of journalists instead of harassing them

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PPF welcomes Asad Ali Toor’s release on bail; urges authorities to safeguard the rights of journalists instead of harassing them

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) welcomes journalist and YouTuber Asad Ali Toor’s release from jail after his bail was approved on March 16. We urge authorities to safeguard the rights of journalists protected under the law instead of harassing them through the issuance of notices, arrests, and investigations.

Toor’s arrest on the grounds of an investigation into an alleged smear campaign against the judiciary displayed the heavy-handedness of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). 

Additionally, during court proceedings on March 8, before Additional Sessions Judge Tahir Abbas Supra, the FIA prosecutor told the court that Toor’s devices had been confiscated and his social media accounts were examined, Dawn reported. His lawyer, Hadi Ali, also told the court that the journalist’s mobile had been taken. This is in complete violation of the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act 2021, which protects a journalist’s right to privacy and non-disclosure of sources. 

On March 15, the Islamabad High Court had told a trial court to take up Toor’s bail petition after it had been postponed till March 18 due to the investigation officer being ill, Dawn reported. On March 16, the trial court Special Judge Central Humayun Dilawar approved his bail, after which Toor was released from Adiala Jail.

Toor’s arrest

On January 17, a joint investigation team was formed to investigate a smear campaign against judges. According to Dawn, reports were shared on social media that the FIA Cyber Crime Wing issued notices to approximately 47 journalists after noticing a “smear campaign against judges.” 

One of the recipients of the notices, Toor, uploaded a copy on X, formerly Twitter, which included details such as the inquiry number, the name of the complainant (Anees Ur Rehman), and the gist of the allegations. The notice directed the journalist to appear before and record his version at the FIA Cyber Crime Reporting Centre on January 31.

According to Dawn, after meeting with representatives of the Press Association of the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association, Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, on January 27, took suo-motu notice of the “alleged harassment” of journalists and made a three-member bench to take up the case along with another case from 2021 at the request of the Press Association of the Supreme Court regarding harassment of journalists, the report added.

On January 30, the apex court gave media professionals time till the general elections to appear before the FIA. The Attorney General of Pakistan, Mansoor Usman Awan, added that the notices against the journalists would be taken up after the elections, Geo reported.

After the general elections that took place on February 8, the process of notices by the FIA began again. Days prior to his arrest on February 26, Toor had responded to the earlier notice, and on

February 23, he was interrogated at the FIA offices for multiple hours.

Toor was arrested by the FIA on February 26, when he appeared before the FIA Cyber Crime Wing in Islamabad in response to the latest of a series of notices issued to him, he was arrested.

A copy of the First Information Report (FIR), registered under Sections 9, 10, and 24 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA), made sweeping and general allegations that Toor had with “malafide intentions and ulterior motives, built a false narrative and started malicious/obnoxious and explicit campaign intentionally and publicly against the modesty of civil servants/government officials and state institutions of Pakistan as well as glorifying anti-state activities through his social media accounts […]”

Following his arrest, the FIA was first granted a five-day physical remand of Toor, which was extended by two days. On March 8, he was sent to jail on a 14-day judicial remand.