Two journalists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat district faced legal actions, including arrest and registration of cases against them.
On August 30, Daily Mashriq’s Bureau Chief Fayyaz Zafar was arrested by the Swat police under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO). The next day, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against another journalist, Daily Azadi’s Editor Amjad Ali, whose house was also raided.
Zafar was arrested when he was traveling back home from his office. According to a letter issued by the Swat District Magistrate and Deputy Commissioner Irfan Ullah Khan Wazir, Zafar allegedly “exploits the phrase freedom of speech and utilizes his social media accounts/channels in spreading fake, offensive and hatred contents to defame and incite the public against the State, Government Institutions, Law Enforcement Agencies as well as notable individuals of the society.”
Wazir ordered that Zaffar be detained for a month.
According to the Swat Press Club, General Secretary Niyaz Khan Zafar was allegedly taken to Khan’s office, where he was physically tortured by officials. Around midnight on August 30, the journalist was shifted to City Saidu Sharif Jail.
On August 31, Zafar was released after the order against him was canceled by the deputy commissioner himself.
According to Radio Pakistan, Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi had taken notice of Zafar’s arrest and “emphasized the importance of conducting an impartial investigation.”
Daily Mashriq Khyber Pakhtunkhwa In Charge Javed Khan had condemned Zafar’s arrest, adding that the journalist had been arrested for his recent reporting against police officials and he had not been affiliated with any political party.
Speaking to PPF, Swat Press Club General Secretary and Mashriq TV’s senior correspondent Niyaz Khan said that due to continuous reporting for Daily Mashriq and on his social media account against the police department, Zafar was arrested, detained, and physically tortured by the police officials on “fake charges” of violating the law in the city.
He added that the Swat Bar Association had staged a protest against hikes in utility bills, which Zafar had addressed, during which he criticized the Swat deputy commissioner for poor performance in the city. Zafar was not on assignment during the protest.
The Khyber Union of Journalists also strongly condemned the arrest of Zafar, declaring it an attack on freedom of expression. A joint statement issued by the Khyber Union of Journalists President Nasir Hussain, Senior Vice President Imran Ayaz, Vice President Abdul Baseer, General Secretary Imran Yousufzai, and other duty-bearers stated that the arrest and torture of Zafar in the DC’s office was a “highly condemnable act.” They also confirmed that Zafar was not a member of any political party, adding that his arrest under the MPO was “not acceptable.”
The Khyber Union of Journalists had demanded that Inspector General Police Swat, Caretaker Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Muhammad Azam Khan, and Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar Ul Haq Kakar take action and release the journalist immediately.
In another incident, on August 31, Swat police registered a criminal complaint and raided the residence of Daily Azadi’s Editor Amjad Ali.
The FIR was registered by an unknown complainant against Ali for “spreading hate speech on social media against government institutions, inciting unrest in the city, and disseminating propaganda among the public in Swat.”
According to the FIR, Ali had shared posts on his social media accounts where he targeted governmental institutions, tried to defame them, and spread propaganda in the city against the institutions of Pakistan.
On the evening of August 31, Ali shared that police officials had raided his residence, but fortunately, he was at his office at the time. Despite their efforts, the police were unable to apprehend him that night.
Swat Police registered the case at the Mingora Police Station under Sections 500, 504, and 250 of the Telegraph Act.
Speaking to PPF, Ali said the FIR against him was “baseless” and claimed that Swat DC Wazir was registering these cases against the journalists for raising voices against him in Swat.
“I did not write anything against anyone. However, I have identified the social issues of Swat on social media. They are also pulling me in these matters like Fayyaz Zafar, who was released by the police after DC Swat denotified his 3-MPO notification on August 31,” Ali lamented.
“On August 31, police raided my residence and harassed my family members. Luckily, I was at the office when the police raided my house. They misbehaved with my family and harassed them. They raided my house to arrest me like Zafar without any prior arrest warrant or notification,” he said.
Ali shared that he had pursued the matter legally in the court. With the assistance of his legal representative, Atta Ullah Jan, Ali filed a writ petition in the District Mingora Session Civil Judge’s Court. On September 1, Justice Muhammad Aurangzeb had him granted 14-day pre-arrest bail.