LAHORE: Journalists Amir Mir and Imran Shafqat were released after being arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crime wing on Saturday, according to a news outlet.
According to the report, the journalists were released after they submitted a personal bond.
Earlier in the day, the agency arrested the journalists in Lahore for their “disrespectful attitude” against the Pakistan Army, the judiciary and women.
According to a press release issued by the FIA’s Cyber Crime wing, the journalists were arrested after cases were registered against them under Sections 11, 13, 20 and 24 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and Sections 469, 500, 505 and 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The statement claimed that two YouTube channels the men were associated with, Googly and Tellings, were releasing messages attempting to weaken national security institutions and the judiciary while also weakening public trust in the institutions.
The statement said the two suspects had been released on bail while the investigation against them would continue. The FIA said it would gather more evidence against the two journalists and submit a challan to the court.
The arrest of the two journalists was quick to garner attention on social media, with politicians, rights activists and the journalist community condemning the FIA’s move.
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the arrests and demanded the release of Mir and Shafqat.
“Imran Khan continues victimisation of political opponents and media critics to hide his incompetence and failures,” he said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) termed the arrests “inexcusable”. “It is no coincidence that both are known as dissenting voices,” the HRCP said.
Journalist Rauf Klasra, while calling out the arrests, said “silencing voices in media won’t help”.
“Show tolerance to those who don’t toe your line or refuse to fall in line. It will only bring [a] bad name to institutions,” he said.
Former senator Afrasiab Khattak termed the incident an attack on “whatever remains of press freedom” in the country. “Abduction replacing arrests (even under the blackest of laws) reflects the nature of unconstitutional regime ruling the country,” he said.
According to AP report, a senior official from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, the FIA, said Amir Mir and Imran Shafqat were detained after posting “scandalous content” on social media, prompting a complaint from the government’s minister. He did not say whether the two had been charged with any crime.
“They uploaded scandalous content on YouTube and they are being questioned about a complaint lodged by a minister, Murad Saeed,” said the FIA’s Babar Bakht Qureshi. Later, the FIA issued a statement saying that the two had been released on bail after questioning and that charges would later be filed in court.
The video in question was an informal roundtable discussion where journalists discussed the army’s role in politics and the judiciary in Pakistan. The government did not have any immediate comment about the detentions, which were made in two separate raids.
Mir’s brother Hamid broke news of the two detentions on Twitter. Hamid is himself a prominent journalist, who hosted a popular TV talk show but was taken off the air two months after criticizing the country’s powerful military. Since then the elder Mir has not been reinstated by his channel, Geo News.
The other journalist who was detained Saturday was Imran Shafqat. He had worked for several newspapers and is also active on social media.
The detentions come as press freedom is increasingly under threat in Pakistan, where advocates and journalists often accuse the military and its agencies of harassing and attacking them.
In one recent unsolved case, Asad Ali Toor, a critic of the army’s role in politics, was beaten up by three unidentified men in his apartment in Islamabad. Police said those involved would be brought to justice, but so far no one has been apprehended. The government insists it supports freedom of speech.