The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday warned Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) cybercrime wing to exercise its powers judiciously or else the court would impose a heavy fine on the investigation officers for misuse of authority.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was hearing the petitions filed against the ongoing inquiries by the FIA's cybercrime wing against journalists Bilal Ghauri, Asad Toor and others, Dawn reported.When Minallah inquired from the FIA cybercrime wing's director Babar Bakhat Qureshi about the number of pending complaints, he informed the court that they were in thousands, prompting the chief justice to ask him why the FIA was giving an impression that it was only proceeding against journalists.
"You need to dispel this impression, since crushing the dissenting voices is against the Islamic injunctions and norms of civilised society," he remarked, adding that the FIA was violating the judgement containing guidelines for summoning a suspect in cybercrime cases.
"You are creating terror in society since you are summoning a citizen without letting him know details of the complaint," he observed.
The FIA cybercrime wing's director said they had disseminated court's guidelines and assured the court of implementing the standard operating procedure in future inquiries.
"In case any investigation officer is found misusing his authority, the court will impose heavy cost on him," warned Justice Minallah.
The court asked the director about progress on the complaint filed by anchorperson Shifa Yousafzai against Asad Toor, reported Dawn.Toor, who was recently attacked by three masked men, was earlier asked to appear before the FIA and record his statement in an inquiry regarding 'defamation of govt institution'.
In his complaint, Fayyaz Mehmood Raja said he had watched a video on May 27 uploaded by Toor on social media "in which allegations have been levelled against our respected institutions".
Freedom of the press has long been a problem in Pakistan but the situation has deteriorated markedly under Imran Khan, who has dismissed allegations of attacks on the Pakistani press as a "joke".
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has ranked Pakistan the fifth most dangerous place for the practice of journalism, with 138 media persons there having lost their lives in the line of duty between 1990 and 2020.