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IHC restrains FIA from harassing journalist 

National

May 24, 2017

Asma says criticising a state institution on its negligence  right of every Pakistani

ISLAMABAD: Justice Aamer Farooq of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) here on Tuesday issued notices to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) after a journalist approached the court that FIA counter-terrorism department has been harassing him without any justification.

The IHC bench restraining FIA from harassing the petitioner directed the authority to submit reply by May 29.

Petitioner Taha Shakeel Siddiqui, a resident of Islamabad, has cited secretary Ministry of Interior, Director General (DG) FIA and FIA’s deputy director Counter Terrorism Department Noman Bodla as respondents.

Teh petitioner is a journalist with a France-based television channel. According to him, on May 18, 2017 he received a phone call apparently from Noman Bodla who introduced himself from the Counter Terrorism Department of the FIA and demanded that the petitioner may appear before him at the FIA Headquarters for an interrogation. On the petitioner’s query as to the nature of the interrogation, Bodla responded vaguely and gave no details of the interrogation that he was conducting. He, however, hinted that the interrogation concerned issues and opinion on which the petitioner had written journalistic pieces and as such it involved the petitioner’s professional work.

That the petitioner was naturally taken aback by the insistence to appear at the FIA headquarters despite the fact that the petitioner continued to convince the respondent that his professional work was in the public domain and could be accessed without his presence or interrogation. Petitioner was reluctant to go to the FIA headquarters due to the apprehension that he is either picked up and disappeared or detained illegally.

At the absolute reluctance expressed by the petitioner, Bodla insisted that it would be “better” for him to appear for review of his work and in a threatening voice and tone, questioned the petitioner as to whether he would appear or not.

That since the phone call petitioner noticed that plain-clothed persons have conspicuously been pointing at his house at which the petitioner has taken due precautions of making certain that his movements are restricted or known to his family and friends.

That it is inconceivable that the counter-terrorism department of the FIA should be calling up a journalist who has nothing to do with terrorism. This action of Bodla alone shows that the phone call is made simply to harass and intimidate the petitioner and he has acted in an illegal manner.

Petitioner has prayed to the court to direct the respondents to carry out their responsibilities and duties in accordance with the law and that they be directed to desist from harassing citizens simply because they have expressed a view or are carrying out their professional duties that are guaranteed under freedom of expression laws.

  Online adds: Human rights activist Asma Jehangir has said criticizing a state institution on its negligence is a right of everyone which cannot be snatched. 

Talking to the media on Tuesday, she said if the practice of threatening calls and harassment of political workers and journalists continued and people’s voice was gagged, there would be a severe backlash. 

She said journalists recently received phone calls from the Counterterrorism Department instead of the FIA Cyber Crime Cell, which was strange because a journalist could not have any link to terrorism. She said the Security of Pakistan Act 1952 ensured safety of defence and foreign affairs-related information. She questioned the arrest of people under various pretentions. She said Clause 9 of the Cyber Crime Bill might be misused and it seemed in the prevailing situation that the government was misusing it. 

 

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