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PFUJ Condemns Arrest of Journalists Performing Professional Duties

KARACHI: G M Jamali, President of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Secretary General Rana Muhammad Azeem have maintained that the Federation strongly condemned the arrest of journalists for performing their professional duty.

PFUJ further stressed that the government should protect freedom of speech and expression.

 The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) held: “Journalists must be able to report on matters in the public interest without fear of retribution.

IFJ notes: “Senior Pakistani journalist with BOL News, Shahid Aslam, has been granted bail following his arrest for his alleged role in leaking the financial data of a former army chief.

“IFJ joins its affiliate PFUJ in condemning the Pakistani authorities’ intimidation of the journalists and urging the government to withdraw all cases against Aslam.

 “At an Islamabad Session Court on January 18, BOL News journalist Shahid Aslam was granted bail after being charged under Section 216 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

“Special Judge Muhammad Azam Khan allowed the senior journalist a release on bail with PKR 50,000 (approx. USD 219) owed.

“Aslam was originally detained for two days by agents from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) without prior notice in Lahore on 13th day of January for his alleged involvement in the leaking of tax records of former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“The records were used in a November report by investigative news outlet FactFocus which accused Bajwa and his family of acquiring assets worth PKR 12,700,000,000 (approximately USD 55,544,622) over the past six years,…

“Substantiated by tax declarations and other financial details belonging to Bajwa and his family. Authorities have claimed these records were attained illegally.

“In his initial trial on 16th January, Pakistani authorities criticized Aslam’s ‘unsatisfactory’ replies to FIA inquiries and his failure to provide passwords to his laptop or phone.

“Aslam’s legal representation challenged the legitimacy of the case, calling the prosecution’s evidence ‘dubious’ and urging them to present evidence of the alleged illegal data transfer.

“Aslam’s attorney argued that as the journalists’ WhatsApp had been active while confiscated by FIA officers, the authorities’ claims of not having access to Aslam’s passwords were illegitimate.

“Before achieving bail, Aslam was to be placed on 14-day judicial remand, in line with a court order at his 16th January trial.

“Both Aslam and FactFocus have denied claims of his involvement in the fact-finding stage of the report.”

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.