Azharul Haq Wahid, a Lahore-based journalist, was remanded into the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) custody for three-days for allegedly sharing “anti-state” material on social media.
FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing had arrested the journalist, who was associated with Channel Five and Khabrain newspaper, on Thursday and had lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against for uploading “anti-state” and “defamatory material against the public functionaries and state departments” through his Facebook account.
The case was registered against him under Sections 11 and 20 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, read with Section 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
On Friday, the agency presented him before Judicial Magistrate Yasir Arafat and sought his physical remand, saying they needed to further interrogate him. However, the nature of the “anti-state” content in question remains unclear.
During the hearing, the agency claimed that the journalist had allegedly shared an “offensive and edited” version of the country’s national anthem and that they had conducted a raid at his home after obtaining his search warrant.
However, FIA’s allegations were rejected by the journalist’s counsel, Advocate Mian Dawood, who said that they had arrested his client “illegally” He also said that since the agency had already seized his client’s mobile phone, there was no need for granting his physical remand.
After hearing the arguments of both sides, the court remanded the journalist into the agency’s custody for three days and directed the latter to produce him on January 20 along with an inquiry report.
After the court announced its decision on Friday, the office-bearers of the Lahore Press Club “strongly condemned” the journalist’s arrest, saying “it is tantamount to usurping the right to freedom of expression and is an unconstitutional step”.
They also demanded of the prime minister to ensure that the journalist is released immediately and of the FIA to issue an apology, saying otherwise journalists would stage countrywide protests.