LAHORE: Charges against BOL TV anchor Imran Riaz Khan for comments critical of state institutions and the Pakistan administration have been dismissed by a court here after his arrest on 2nd February, 2023.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in welcoming Khan’s release and urging the Pakistan government to cease its harassment and intimidation of journalists and media workers.
Khan was arrested at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport by the Cyber Wing of the FIA as he attempted to depart for the United Arab Emirates.
The arrest came after a First Information Report (FIR) was filed at Attock police station alleging a video posted to social depicted Khan attempting to ruin the reputation of a state institution. Khan’s luggage was also seized.
According to lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq, Khan was taken into custody by the FIA’s Lahore headquarters and appeared in court on February 3. The Lahore court dismissed the case and ordered his immediate release.
The FIA’s cybercrime wing is investigating Khan under the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and the criminal code, according to the FIR in Khan’s case.
The journalist’s arrest was condemned by the PFUJ, who said the incident was a continuation of the government’s restrictions on Press freedom and denounced the unlawful arrest of the journalist without a warrant.
Khan was previously taken into custody at Islamabad Toll Plaza in July 2022 and has been implicated in several cases, which he claimed were motivated by his refusal to “stop speaking the truth”.
Previous cases against Khan were filed with police in numerous areas of Punjab, all with similar charges.
Several residents submitted applications to register the First Information Reports (FIRs), alleging that the journalist was inciting anti-national sentiments by disparaging the Pakistan Army and state institutions.
According to the IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2021-2022, “two-thirds of the complainants invoking the PECA law against journalists are private citizens, with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials the second highest initiator of complaints.”
PFUJ President GM Jamali and Secretary General Rana Azeem said: “The government must follow the lawful procedures of charging people for illegal actions.
“The charges placed on him must follow the relevant legislations, but any media person who is unlawfully arrested will not be permitted.’’
The IFJ said: “The growing number of legal cases registered against journalists in Pakistan is tantamount to suppression of press freedom.
“The IFJ welcomes the dismissal of charges against Imran Riaz Khan but urges the Pakistani authorities to cease the use of intimidation and legal harassment to curb independent and critical journalism.”