The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded on Thursday that Pakistani authorities immediately free journalist Imran Riaz Khan and guarantee that media professionals can operate freely and without fear of retaliation.
Khan, an anchor for the privately owned broadcaster Express News and host of a YouTube channel with more than 3 million subscribers, was detained by police on the evening of Tuesday, July 5, according to news reports and a statement from the Pakistan Press Foundation, a local press freedom organisation.
According to those reports, police detained him after receiving a complaint from Attock, in the northeastern Punjab province. Khan was ordered to be released by an Attock court on Thursday, but police from the Punjabi city of Chawkal detained him once more after his release, according to news reports.
Imran Riaz Khan, a Pakistani journalist, has been detained numerous times. This harassment must stop right away, according to Carlos Martinez de la Serna, the programme director for CPJ. “Authorities must release Khan right away and ensure that journalists can report on state institutions, including the military, in a secure and unrestricted manner.”
According to CPJ reporting and The Express Tribune, Khan is a vocal critic of the Shehbaz Sharif-led government and a supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was deposed in April and is not related to the journalist.
Khan complained that members of the military were threatening him in a video he posted on his YouTube channel on Monday and addressed to Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for questioning the military’s involvement in politics.
The following day in Islamabad, Attock police detained Khan in response to a complaint made by a man named Malik Mureed Abbas, who cited an unidentified social media video in which Khan was seen, according to news reports.
CPJ was unable to locate Abbas’s contact information. According to Khan’s attorney Mian Ali Ashfaq, the journalist was named in 17 different cases across Punjab. Ashfaq informed CPJ via messaging that he was unable to respond right away.
The next day in Islamabad, Attock police detained Khan in response to a complaint made by a man named Malik Mureed Abbas, who reportedly cited an unidentified social media video in which Khan was seen.
No contact information for Abbas could be located by CPJ. According to Dawn, the journalist was named in 17 different cases across Punjab, according to Khan’s attorney Mian Ali Ashfaq. Ashfaq told CPJ he couldn’t comment right away when he was contacted through a messaging app.
According to a report published on Wednesday by Dawn, Khan was charged with breaking several rules of the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act as well as the Pakistani penal code, including those pertaining to defamation and the publication of statements encouraging public mischief.
The penal code states that these offences are punishable by two to seven years in prison and an unspecified fine. According to that Dawn report, a judge had instructed the government not to file any PECA charges.