Pakistan: Journalist Bilal Farooqi arrested for defaming Army
A Pakistani journalist associated with a leading English-language daily in the country was taken into custody by police from his residence in Karachi after he allegedly posted social media posts criticising the Army, according to his family and friends.
Farooqi, who is a news editor at The Express Tribune, was "arrested by the station investigation officer (SIO) of defence police" from his residence in the DHA area on Friday evening, Karachi police chief, Additional Inspector General Ghulam Nabi Memon, told Dawn.
An FIR was lodged against the journalist under FIR against Farooqi was under Sections 500 and 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 11 and 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016, based on a complaint by one Javed Khan on September 9, said a senior police officer, who requested anonymity.
Fellow scribe Ebad Ahmed said Farooqi had been taken into custody from his house by "two men in plainclothes accompanied by two policemen". Later, the police visited the residence again and Farooqi's wife was also detained at a police station in DHA.
"Police have taken possession of Bilal's phone," Ahmed added.
According to the FIR, the complainant, who is a machine operator at a factory and is a resident of Majeed Colony in Landhi area, said he visited a restaurant in DHA Phase-2 Extension on September 9, during which he checked his Facebook and Twitter accounts. It was then he found "highly objectionable posts" against the Pakistan Army were posted by Farooqi on both platforms and the material was aimed at allegedly spreading religious hate.
Khan alleged that the journalist had "defamed" the Pakistan Army and these social media posts could be used by enemies for their "nefarious designs". He said that legal action should be initiated against him.
Meanwhile, the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), released a statement saying that "that the arrest of Bilal was part of the nefarious and concerted campaign to gag the free and independent voices".
The statement said that "Farooqi, an active journalist who also remained executive committee of the KUJ, has been an educated and responsible youth, who never indulged in any kind of violation of Pakistani laws".
"His only crime is that he dissents with ruling elites and raises his voice for the betterment and a progressive society," KUJ President Ashraf Khan remarked in the statement.
The body's secretary-general, Ahmed Khan Malik, has demanded the immediate release of Farooqi. "We demand the withdrawal of false charges against Bilal, and he must be released immediately," Malik stated as quoted by Dawn.
Farooqi's arrest is the latest in a series of arrests of Pakistani journalists who have been vocal critics of the army.
Prime Minister Imran Khan recently claimed that there is no crackdown on the press in Pakistan. However, the arrests threats of violence against journalists clearly show the stark reality of the situation in Pakistan.
Earlier in July, a journalist named Matiullah Jan was abducted for his critical views on Pakistan's military establishment. He was subsequently released hours later.
Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders's (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2019.