Thursday May 12 2022

IHC extends stay order in journalists' harassment case

Islamabad High Court (IHC)  Chief Justice Athar Minallah. — IHC website
Islamabad High Court (IHC)  Chief Justice Athar Minallah. — IHC website

  • IHC CJ Athar Minallah extends stay order on journalists' request.
  • Journalist leader says Arshad Sharif fears he might get abducted.
  • IHC CJ asks political leadership from using the term "traitor".

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Thursday extended a stay order, restricting authorities from harassing journalists till July 26.

Hearing a case against harassment of anchorperson Arshad Sharif, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or any other authority should inform the journalist's organisation or the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) about the case before they arrest them.

At the outset of the hearing, the IHC CJ questioned where was ARY News' bureau chief as the court had summoned him for airing content that was against the judiciary.

At this, Sharif's lawyer Faisal Chaudhry told the IHC that he was currently in Saudi Arabia performing Umrah. However, it is feared that he might be arrested upon arrival, the counsel said.

The court asked the director of FIA whether a case was registered against the bureau chief. The FIA official said at this time, no complaint was registered against the journalist.

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The IHC CJ told the lawyer that since no case has been registered against the bureau chief, the counsel should file a separate plea if it fears that the journalist might be arrested upon arrival.

Moving on, Chaudhry told the IHC CJ that FIA has a counter-terrorism wing that harasses journalists and political workers and would also accuse them of being traitors.

The IHC CJ wondered whether it would be better if the political leadership refrained from using the term "traitor" for their opponents. He told ex-information minister and PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry that his resignation from Parliament had not been accepted till now, so he should sit with the political leadership and resolve issues.

At this, the former information minister questioned what would the PTI do by attending the session in the "occupied assembly?" He added that once elections are held, his party would go to the assembly and legislate.

Responding to Fawad's argument, journalist leader Afzal Butt said if the laws that the former government was planning to introduce would have come into force, the situation would have been dire.

The IHC CJ then asked Fawad did he watch the television on April 9 — the day when the no-confidence motion vote was scheduled to take place. "On that days, two analysts had imposed martial law themselves."

IHC CJ Minallah said the media was showing army vehicles and helicopters, noting that despite him being at home, the channels were airing news that he had reached the court.

The court then moved on and asked if anchorperson Arshad Sharif was satisfied, and then the court would wrap up the case. At this, Butt said he still fears that he might be abducted at any moment, so we wish that the petition should remain pending.

PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar then said the government uses FIA for its means, and the current government was expected to do the same thing.

After hearing the arguments, the court adjourned the hearing till May 26 and stopped the authorities from harassing journalists, including Sharif, till the date.