Harassment of journalists and human rights activists, torture of civil society activists, and censorship of the media has been rampant in Pakistan for many years now. We at New Pakistan have routinely spoken out about it and brought to the forefront every time something like this happens. We are therefore perturbed by the recent attempts to malign Pakistani academic Dr Arfana Mallah and the lodging of a FIR against well-known journalist Shahzeb Jillani.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has “expressed alarm at the frequency with which human rights defenders and journalists are made the subject of propaganda amounting to incitement.”
The HRCP “stands in solidarity with both Dr Mallah and Mr Jilani. The fact that an unverified news item implying that Dr Mallah expressed “anti-state” sentiments was broadcast by the channel 92 News is troubling. In addition, the FIR lodged against Mr Jilani under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, accusing him of casting aspersions on state institutions, is baseless and absurd. While 92 News has already apologised to Dr Mallah, HRCP urges the channel and all media houses to institute higher reporting and verification standards, especially given that civil society voices are already subject to intimidation and harassment at the slightest provocation. HRCP also demands that the FIR against Mr Jilani be quashed: questioning a journalist’s “loyalty” or “patriotism” for having criticised state institutions must cease to be the norm.”