New York [US], May 27 (ANI): Pakistani authorities must immediately drop their investigations into journalists Sami Abraham, Arshad Sharif, Sabir Shakir, and Imran Riaz Khan, and refrain from arresting and targeting journalists in retaliation for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.
Since May 18, police across Pakistan have filed multiple first information reports (FIR), which open an investigation, against Abraham, an anchor with the privately-owned broadcaster BOL News and the host of a popular current affairs YouTube channel, and Khan, an anchor with the privately-owned broadcaster Express News, and Sharif and Shakir, both anchors with the privately-owned broadcaster ARY News, according to news reports and the journalists, who spoke with CPJ via phone and messaging app.
The spate of investigations come amid physical, legal, and online harassment of journalists following the parliament's election of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on April 11, after ousting former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a no-confidence vote. On May 4, Prime Minister Sharif tweeted that the new government was "fully committed to freedom of pressspeech."The four journalists are known as supporters of former Prime Minister Khan, according to news reports.
Among other offences, the multiple FIRs all accuse the four journalists of violating sections of Pakistan's penal code pertaining to abetment of mutiny and publication of statements causing public mischief by criticizing state institutions and the army in their journalistic work and unspecified social media posts.
Abetment of mutiny can carry life imprisonment and an unspecified fine, and the public mischief accusation can carry a prison sentence of seven years and an unspecified fine, according to the law.
"Pakistan authorities' launch of a blizzard of harassing criminal investigations into journalists seen as sympathetic to the former ruling party makes a mockery of its claims to uphold press freedom," said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C.
"Authorities should withdraw the investigations into Sami Abraham, Imran Riaz Khan, Arshad Sharif, and Sabir Shakir and ensure that members of the press do not face retaliation for their commentary on the military or any other institutions in Pakistan." (ANI)