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Pakistan: FIA investigates journalists for 'disrespecting' Saudi crown prince

Soldiers patrol on a street next to posters welcoming Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Islamabad, Pakistan, 17 February 2019
Soldiers patrol on a street next to posters welcoming Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Islamabad, Pakistan, 17 February 2019

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on pakistanpressfoundation.org on 29 March 2019.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA's), Cyber Crime Wing has initiated an investigation against five prominent Pakistani journalists, an activist and four groups for 'executing targetted social media campaigns' during the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman visit to Pakistan in February of this year.

The five journalists' names included in the FIA's list are Matiullah Jan, former host of talk show at Waqt TV; Umar Cheema, investigative reporter for The News; Murtaza Solangi, news analyst at Capital TV and former director general of state owned Radio Pakistan; Azaz Syed, senior correspondent at Geo TV and The News; and Ammar Masood, columnist at the daily Jang. Also on the list is the name of Ahmed Waqas Goraya, a social media activist who is currently in self imposed exile in the Netherlands after his release in January 2017 from 25 days abduction.

In a letter written on March 13, 2019, Chaudhary Abdul Rauf, Additional Director Cybercrime Wing, said the six had displayed the image of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on their Twitter account and "it conveyed a very disrespectful message" to the visiting Saudi crown prince. The letter directed concerned FIA officials to initiate inquiries and to submit reports on their inquies on a daily basis.

Solangi, one of the journalists named in the FIA's inquiry list, said the "FIA action was not only against the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression but also in violation of the international covenant signed by Pakistan. This is nothing but senseless harassment of independent journalists."

Masood, another journalist named in the FIA's letter, questioned whether Pakistani journalists would now be punished for changing their display photos. He added, "Freedom of expression is under real threat in Pakistan."

Goraya, whose name was also included in the list, sent a message to the FIA that he will not stop his campaign. Goraya added that, "I am a Pakistani citizen and I am fighting for democracy and rule of law in Pakistan."

The letter also included the names of four religious groups, including Hizb-ul-Tahrir Pakistan, Majlis-e-Wahadat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), Tameer-e-Watan Party and the Imamia Students Organization (ISO), and they were accused of targeting the Saudi crown prince on social media.

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