The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general has been summoned by the Supreme Court over allegations of harassment of media workers by the FIA.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa authored the five-page order in which the court noted that, “The FIA appears to have overstepped its legal mandate and undermined the peoples’ confidence in the judiciary, which is the guarantor of fundamental rights.”
The order was issued over an application submitted by the Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS).
Two senior journalists were arrested by the FIA in Lahore earlier this month, for their “disrespectful attitude” against the Pakistan Army, the judiciary and women. In a statement, the FIA added that the suspects had been released on bail, while they would be investigated further.
Justice Isa noted the FIA DG’s permission was required before statements were issued, and asked who authorized mentioning the word “judiciary.” He sought a written explanation on why the statement was retracted later.
The FIA DG has been summoned to court along with the entire original record of cases against journalists which prompted the issuance of the press release. The DG has also been asked to submit a complete list of cases filed against journalists. The order added that the list should specify the actual content which the FIA deemed to constitute an offence.
The court also issued a notice to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) chairman on complaints that journalists were not allowed to work freely and pursue their careers.
“PEMRA should also disclose its role in ensuring that press freedom is ensured and that all political parties, both in the government and in opposition, receive the same broadcast time in compliance with the reported judgments in the cases of Fatehyab Ali Khan and Muhammad Aslam Saleemi.”
Justice Isa also noted that the “frequent attacks” on journalists and their abductions were a violation of the fundamental rights which had been raised in the application.
“This matter becomes a matter of concern when the perpetrators are not arrested and, all the more so, when it happens under the cameras of the Safe City Project, Islamabad. Inability in this regard may suggest incompetence, which may constitute dereliction of duty, or far worse abetment, which is an offence.”
The court also issued a notice to the Inspector General of Police of the Islamabad Capital Territory and the Ministry of Interior to submit their written replies listing the number of attacks on journalists, the progress made in the investigation of the FIRs, including identifying the attackers, and whether the recordings from the cameras of the Safe City Project were used to trace out the perpetrators.
Justice Isa noted that allegations had been made that certain media houses which projected a particular political narrative benefitted financially as they were given advertisements, while the others were deprived.
He issued a notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and sought details of the amounts disbursed on account of advertisements in the last financial year and the criteria used in determining the beneficiaries.
The court also issued notices to Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) to state whether the allegations made in the application were correct or otherwise.
Notices were also issued to Pakistan Television Corporation (PTC) and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) to submit in writing whether they are abiding by the guaranteed fundamental right of a free press.
The court adjourned the hearing until August 26 before which all replies should be filed.