The Karachi Union of Journalists has condemned the registration of a case against senior journalist Shahzeb Jillani under a ‘coercive law’ for expressing his independent views.
The notice was issued to Jillani under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act that was enacted in 2016 without consulting journalists and other media stakeholders.
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 and Deutsche Welle among other places. He has worked in television, print, online and radio.
The FIA registered a case against Jillani on April 6 on a complaint filed by Maulvi Muhammad Iqbal Haider, an advocate.
The case has been registered under sections 10(a) (cyber terrorism), 11 (hate speech) and 20 (offences against the dignity of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and sections 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), 109 (abetment) and 500 (defamation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Section 10(a) is punishable by a jail term of up to 14 years or a fine of up to Rs50 million or both, Section 11 is punishable by a jail term of three years and/or a fine of Rs250,000, Section 20 is punishable by a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of Rs1 million and Section 500 is punishable by a jail term of up to two years and or a fine.
The complainant has claimed that Jillani, as a guest on and producer of two Dunya News programmes, one on December 8, 2017 and another on March 18, 2019, made “defamatory remarks against the respected institutions of Pakistan”.
“The law seems to be in contravention of Article 19 of the Pakistan Constitution which gives freedom to any citizen of the country to express his or her views without any fear,” a statement by the KUJ said.
KUJ President Ashraf Khan and General Secretary Ahmed Khan Malik said that a ‘systematic campaign’ was going on to suppress the voices of journalists and the latest issuance of the notice was part of that campaign.
They called upon parliamentarians to review the act as it denied the rights of freedom of speech of the people of Pakistan.
Both office bearers strongly demanded the government revoke the notice against Jillani, who enjoys an impeccable journalistic record and is well-respected in the journalist community.