Journalist Shahzeb Jillani’s interim bail was extended by a week on Wednesday in a case registered against him for expressing his opinion about state institutions.
The case was filed under the Pakistan Penal Code and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
Jillani is a senior journalist who has worked with BBC News for many years in Washington, Beirut, and London. He has written for The Friday Times, The News, Deutsche Welle among other places. He has worked in television, print, online and radio. He currently works as a senior executive editor for Dunya Kamran Khan Ke Sath.
The FIA registered a case against Jillani on April 6 on a complaint filed by Maulvi Muhammad Iqbal Haider, an advocate. The complaint was filed on March 28.
On April 17, District and Sessions Judge South Imdad Hussain Khoso adjourned the hearing to April 24, Wednesday, as the investigating officer, Akbar Khan Mahsood, failed to appear in court.
FIA Prosecutor Zakir Hussain said that they did not have the police papers as they were with the IO. “I can’t comment on the case because the IO didn’t come and we don’t have a case file,” he said after the hearing.
There was a slight delay in the hearing because the FIA prosecutor arrived late.
When the case number was called out, Jillani flanked by his lawyer appeared before the judge. A small group of journalists stood behind them. The judge asked about the group and he was informed that they were journalists. He remarked that this was unacceptable and termed it to be a “pressure tactic”. It won’t make any difference, he said. The journalists were asked to return to the benches, which they immediately did.
The judge inquired about the FIA prosecutor but he was informed that he had not arrived as yet. The hearing was then delayed for half an hour. The rest of the proceedings were held in the judge’s chamber.
What is the case about?
The person who made the complaint is a lawyer called Maulvi Muhammad Iqbal Haider. He said that Jillani made “audacious remarks against invisible security forces of Pakistan” while working as a coordinator of the Dunya TV show Dunya Kamran Khan Kay Saath. His gave references of episodes which aired December 8, 2017 and March 18, 2019.
“Law enforcement agencies have been directly or indirectly, deliberately and intentionally alleged for influencing the democratic system of Pakistan,” the complainant said.
Jillani targeted the security forces on the show, Haider told SAMAA Digital. “No one should be allowed to challenge the integrity and sovereignty of the country,” he added.
When asked how he knew that Jillani was working on the directions of “foreign agencies”, an allegation he made in the complaint, Haider said, “Look at the language he used. Nobody should be allowed to use the language of Indian news channels.”
In the FIR, the investigating officer alleged that,“Jillani, with the criminal intent and ulterior motives without any lawful justification spoke sarcastic, derogatory, disrespectful and defamatory language against the State of Pakistan, Election Commission of Pakistan, Armed Forced of Pakistan, including the COAS, and the prestigious intelligence agency of Pakistan (ISI).”
The FIR was registered against Jillani under sections 10(a) (cyber terrorism), 11 (hate speech) and 20 (harming the reputation or privacy of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016, and sections 34 (acts done in furtherance of common intention), 109 (abetment) and 500 (defamation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
A person can be imprisoned for up to 14 years or fined up to Rs50 million or both if convicted under Section 10(a). Section 11 is punishable by a jail term of seven years. Section 20 is punishable by a jail term of three and/or a fine of Rs1 million.
Jillani is the third journalist to be booked under PECA. PECA was passed in 2016. The law has 55 sections which deal with persecuting people on the basis of what they say or do online.