Fact-check: Government confirms it is considering authorising FIA to act against posts about state institutions

Social media users claim govt had approved a summary to empower FIA to prosecute and investigate online posts

Social media users, and reports in the local media, claimed that the government had approved a summary to empower the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to prosecute and investigate online posts “spreading false information about state institutions.”

The claim is true.

Claim

On November 2, posts began circulating on social media which allege that false news on social media can lead to imprisonment of seven years, under the new powers given to the FIA.

Similar statements were posted by multiple social media accounts.

Fact

The news is true and has been confirmed by the interior minister.

On October 27, the Ministry of Interior wrote to the federal cabinet proposing changes to the FIA Act, 1974.

The letter, seen by Geo Fact Check, states that social media is “inundated with false information and rumours against state institutions and organizations” with the intent to incite an officer, soldier or airman in the Army, Navy or Air Force of Pakistan to mutiny.

The ministry then requested that Section 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code be included in the schedule of the FIA Act, as well as Section 295-B.

Section 505 of the PPC related to statements of “public mischief”, such as circulating rumours with intent to cause or incite any officer or soldier or sailor to mutiny or disregard or fail in his duty.

The section is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years with a fine.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has confirmed to Geo Fact Check that it is indeed under consideration to make changes to the FIA law, but he added that nothing is yet final.

“There is will be a meeting for the summary’s disapproval or approval in one or two days,” he told Geo Fact Check, over the phone. He further said that what is happening on social media was “important to regulate”.

“But if [such changes] damage the freedom of the media then this will not happen,” the minister said, “Until all journalist committees are fully on board with the change we will not pass it.”


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— Thumbnail and Header image of social media logos are seen through magnifiers displayed in this illustration taken on May 25, 2021. — Reuters/File