Section in social media misusing freedom of expression: attorney general

ISLAMABAD: Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan on Wednesday regretted before the Supreme Court (SC) hearing journalist’s harassment case that a section in social media was grossly misusing freedom of expression through abusive and filthy language.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan had taken suo motu notice of a journalist harassment case, which was moved by the Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS).

The case was initiated in Aug last year when senior journalist and former president Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS) Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui, through an application, invited the attention of the court towards the rising and frequent incidents of harassment of journalists like Amir Mir, Imran Shafqat, Asad Ali Toor and Absar Alam.

Referring to a report furnished before the Supreme Court by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general, the AGP pointed out that while he fully supported and requested the court to keep in mind the physical and economic security and well-being of journalists, he cited a particular case where the social media platform was used to malign persons who were neither holding any public office nor engaged in political or public activities.

Says everyone has right to criticise public office-holders, not malign those who did not enter public domain

In this particular case, the Vlog attributed occult and mystical activities to the First Lady and referred to “Jinnat”, the AGP regretted, adding that similar acts were attributed to the election of Azad Kashmir prime minister.

This is highly undesirable and amounts to gross abuse of social media platform which pollutes and degrades such activity, AGP Khan said, arguing that everyone had a right to criticise public office-holders but not abuse and malign people who did not enter public domain and never issued political statements or addressed press conferences.

Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed, however, observed that defamation cases in our country were very weak, adding that in the West, properties were mortgaged or attached under defamation laws.

The SC also sought the views of the AGP with respect to the last order passed by the court regarding enforcement of Article 19 relating to freedom of expression and the press.

Justice Ahmed, however, regretted that though involving someone with occult or supernatural creatures was reprehensible, it did not fall within the category of cognisable offences.

He also pointed out that the journalists were not only subjected to violence and other kinds of harassment but were even kidnapped by non-state actors.

Unjustified restriction would not only adversely affect media freedom but also allow trampling of fundamental rights of the people, the court observed.

Earlier in Nov 12, the deputy inspector general of police operations, Islamabad, had explained that the capital police had submitted cases of 32 accused before the concerned court for trial who were involved in 16 cases of attempted murder or assault registered by the journalist during the last one year.

A report furnished on behalf of the stated that out of 16 cases, which were registered before the Islamabad Police during Sept 13, 2020 to Sept 12, 2021, four were still under investigation.

The report was furnished in line with the direction whether the reported attacks on some journalists had been investigated and the culprits brought to book or not.

Then the IGP had told the court that some of the cases remained unresolved on account of lack of sufficient evidence gathered so far but the investigations were still continuing.

Subsequently the court had ordered the IGP to furnish a comprehensive report about all the reported attacks on the journalists in the past one year which have led to personal injuries and had the effect of criminal intimidation of journalists to prevent them from performing their professional duties.

Source: Dawn

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