The Supreme Court has taken notice of the recent cases of harassment of journalists.
It has summoned the FIA DG, Islamabad IG, and secretaries of the interior, IT, and human rights ministries in person at the next hearing.
The court remarked that the harassment of journalists in Pakistan is a public interest case.
It has also summoned details of the funds spent on the safe city project.
Notices also have been issued to different journalist organisations such as All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.
Pakistani and international rights groups and media watchdogs have been warning of increased police and judicial harassment of journalists who criticise or question the country’s authorities on social media.
The journalists targeted recently include Asad Toor who was brutally assaulted by unidentified men at his home in Islamabad on May 26. He is known for his court reporting and criticism of the establishment. He runs his own YouTube channel. He recently worked at SAMAA TV as a current affairs program producer.
Later, Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s biggest names in journalism, was banned from TV after he criticised the establishment when the attack on journalist Asad Toor took place inside his house in Islamabad in May. Hamid Mir appeared on BBC’s HARDTalk with Stephen Sackur and spoke about censorship, his coverage of Imran Khan, the new media laws being planned and who really is behind these attacks on journalists.
Last year, Bilal Farooqi, a news editor at the Express Tribune. He was detained in Karachi on September 11, 2020. The same day, the Punjab police opened an investigation into journalist Absar Alam for suspected “sedition” and “treason,” acting on a complaint filed by a lawyer accusing him of posting “highly inappropriate” comments on social media.
Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) conducted a nationwide survey in 2018 on the state of security of journalists to shed light on the threats and concerns journalists face online, which runs parallel to the harassment journalists face offline. Their report, titled “Digital (In)Security of Journalists in Pakistan” mapped the digital risks that journalists face in Pakistan and suggested policy interventions based on the data collected.
The report said that 66% of the journalists who participated in the survey responded that they had suffered online insecurity.
Journalists face issues of digital security in various ways including blackmail, hacking, threats, sexual harassment, data theft, stalking, and attacks through malware or phishing emails.