Intimidation Of Media Won't Be Tolerated: CJP Isa

Observes that FIR registered against journalist Asad Ali Toor lacks 'material particulars' on the alleged offences

Intimidation Of Media Won't Be Tolerated: CJP Isa

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa has observed that the intimidation of the press will not be tolerated. 

The chief justice further observed that the FIR registered against vlogger Asad Toor lacks material particulars regarding the alleged offences.

"Resultantly, a bad name is brought to the judiciary and the people are misled into thinking that the action was initiated at its behest," observed the chief justice. 

He has further observed that the freedom of the press is a valuable fundamental right enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution, adding that this right helps secure other fundamental rights as a responsible/vigilant press highlights infringements of fundamental rights. 

He made these observations in a written order issued Tuesday in a suo moto case about the harassment of journalists and a constitutional petition moved by the Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS). A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Isa and comprising Justice Irfan Sadaat Khan and Justice Naeem Afghan had heard the case. 

Regarding the FIR against Toor, the written order stated that when a reference to the Supreme Court judges is made in notices and this is followed by registering an FIR, the public assumes that the action was initiated on the complaint of or at the behest of a judge or the registrar of the Supreme Court.  

"However, the FIR does not mention any judge or the judiciary but mentions 'civil servants/government officials'," the chief justice observed.

Regarding the attack on senior journalist Absar Alam and the abduction of another senior journalist, Matiullah Jan, the top court held that the reports of the senior police investigator (an SSP) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) were not satisfactory. 

The top court further said that the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) was not satisfied with them either.

The AGP assured the court that comprehensive reports regarding the crimes committed would be submitted by or before the next date of hearing.

"We expect that no stone would be left unturned to unearth the perpetrators of these crimes against journalists," the top court observed. 

According to the written order, PAS' counsel Salahuddin Ahmed referred to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), constituted under section 30 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) to probe the alleged malicious digital campaign targetting judges, includes members of an intelligence agency.

Barrister Salahuddin stated that Section 30 of the law does not permit their association to participate in the investigation; however, the Prevention of 
Electronic Crimes Investigation Rules 2018 permits this; therefore, the rules are ultra vires to Section 30 of the law and, to such extent, are not sustainable.

Regarding the JIT, the top court has issued notices to the respondents and directed them to submit their concise statements before March 25, the next date of hearing.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain