Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has urged the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to halt contempt proceedings against Ansar Abbasi as well as The News editor and owner, calling the court’s action a threat to freedom of press in the country.
“I verified my sources,” Abassi is quoted as saying in the RSF press release issued earlier today (Friday).
Investigative reporter Ansar Abbasi, as well as The News’ editor, Aamir Ghauri, and Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jang Group, face contempt of court charges for publishing a leaked affidavit from former Gilgit-Baltistan chief judge Rana Shamim.
In the affidavit, the former judge alleges that then chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar pressured another IHC judge not to grant bail to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam in the lead-up to the 2018 elections.
In a press release, RSF accused the Pakistani military of ‘endangering’ the rule of law in the country.
“We call on Justice Athar Minallah to rise to the challenge of this affair of state by immediately abandoning the proceedings against The News International’s journalists. Both respect for press freedom and judicial independence – two pillars of democracy that are routinely endangered by pressure from Pakistan’s all-powerful military – are at stake in this case,” a statement from Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, read.
For his part, Rana Shamim denies leaking the affidavit, writing in a statement submitted to the court this month that he “laid the entire blame” on The News.
Pakistan ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.