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PPF calls for the immediate release of Asad Ali Toor; repeat issuance of summons, hours-long detention, and arrest is a violation of Constitutional right to free expression

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PPF calls for the immediate release of Asad Ali Toor; repeat issuance of summons, hours-long detention, and arrest is a violation of Constitutional right to free expression

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) calls for the immediate release of journalist and YouTuber Asad Ali Toor, who was arrested on February 26 by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) allegedly in connection with an “explicit and malicious campaign against Honorable Judges of [the] Supreme Court of Pakistan.” The repeat issuance of summons to a journalist, hours-long detentions, and ultimately, his arrest is a violation of the Constitutional right to free expression. 

On February 26, when Toor 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. Toor’s lawyer, Imaan Mazari-Hazir, confirmed the news of his arrest on X, formerly Twitter.

According to Dawn, quoting Mazari-Hazir, the journalist had gone to the FIA Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in response to the summons that was issued for him on February 24. Per his lawyer, his legal team had gone to the FIA with an order from the Islamabad High Court, which “instructed the agency not to harass” him; however, despite this, she said he was taken inside without his legal team.

A copy of the First Information Report (FIR), registered under Sections 9, 10, and 24 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (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 […]”

The latest notice to Toor to appear before the FIA came just days after another notice was issued to the journalist dated February 20, which required him to record his version before the FIA on February 23.

On February 24, Toor shared a copy of the latest FIA notice on X stating that after being detained by the agency for eight hours on the day prior (February 23), he had received another notice from the FIA asking him to appear before them on February 26.

“I have not received any list of allegations. I was made to answer a questionnaire, containing 8

questions which were vague questions about “defaming” judges of [the] Supreme Court. No other information about the substantive allegations against me has been provided. This is a clear attempt to deter me from [the] performance of my journalistic duties and in violation of the many undertakings given by the FIA before the Islamabad High Court,” the journalist lamented.

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.

On February 27, the FIA was granted a five-day physical remand of Toor by an Islamabad district and session court, Dawn reported.


Summons to journalists 

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 Toor to appear before and record his version at the FIA Cyber Crime Reporting Centre on January 31.

On January 27, the Press Association of the Supreme Court President Aqeel Afzal and Islamabad High Court Journalists Association President Fayaz Mahmood issued a joint statement condemning the notices to working journalists associated with media organizations. 

According to Dawn, after meeting with representatives of the two associations, 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.

During the case proceedings on January 29, the three-member bench “emphasized” that journalists should not be booked; however, they did not suspend the proceedings by the FIA, Dawn reported.

CJP Isa was reported to have said that he didn’t mind if someone made fun of him, “but mocking the judiciary brings harm to the country, remaining the limits the Constitution imposes on criticism.”

He also said that “fair criticism” was the right of every journalist and citizen, adding that no criminal action could be taken if the critique was related to judgments as stipulated in Article 19, Dawn reported. 

“He said the court would ensure freedom of expression for every journalist,” 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.



Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) President Abid Abbasi condemned the arrest of Toor. He told PPF that they were very concerned about the case and were planning a further protest. 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also condemned Toor’s arrest, demanding that he be released immediately and any curbs on free expression be “removed promptly.”

The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) said they were “deeply concerned” by Toor’s arrest.

“The PECA law is a problematic law that needs thorough review. Freedom of speech and information is a fundamental right which must be upheld at all costs,” the NCHR stated on X.

The post PPF calls for the immediate release of Asad Ali Toor; repeat issuance of summons, hours-long detention, and arrest is a violation of Constitutional right to free expression first appeared on Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).