Contempt Charges Against Media Persons Uncalled-for: Freedom Network

Press Release
ISLAMABAD: Freedom Network expresses its utter disappointment over the order of the Islamabad High Court bracketing three media persons with a former judge of Gilgit-Baltistan to frame charges against them in a contempt case Chief Justice Athar Minallah is hearing.
“The Islamabad High Court order to frame contempt charges against Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, Resident Editor of The News International Aamir Ghouri and Editor Investigation Ansar Abbasi make no sense as these media persons made no crime by reporting the affidavit which exists and confirmed by its author before the honorable chief justice of the Islamabad High Court,” Iqbal Khattak, Executive Director of media watchdog Freedom Network, said Wednesday in Press Freedom Alert issued on 29 December 2021.
“The court order will damage press freedom in the country and set a bad precedent for doing investigative journalism. As the court finds itself satisfied with the existence of the affidavit which was owned and confirmed by its author there is no justification whatsoever to frame charges against these media persons.”
Iqbal Khattak said Ansar Abbasi, the editor, and the editor-in-chief would have been guilty of doing unethical journalism had the affidavit been fraudulent. “It is no crime to report such high-level public interest document which the investigative editor found and verified before its publication,” he said.
The Freedom Network Executive Director hoped the chief justice of Islamabad High Court would take into account devastating repercussions the charges would have for freedom of expression and prayed him to reconsider his opinion about the media persons in this case.
“Media is just the messenger in this case, not the contemnor and treating the media on a par with the principal alleged contemnor here will be akin to, proverbially, shooting the messenger, which will have adverse repercussions on the already fragile state of media freedoms in Pakistan, which is ranked among the most dangerous countries to practice journalism,” he added.
“Media looks at the judiciary for its support in the face of state and non-state-patronized onslaughts from all sides in the last more than three years to defend citizens’ right to know and access to information,” the Press Freedom Alert said.
On 28 December 2021, the chief justice of Islamabad High Court ordered to frame charges against the main alleged contemnor besides the three media persons who reported the affidavit which former top Gilgit-Baltistan judge recorded to accuse former chief justice of Pakistan of allegedly “colluding” to deny bail to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif before the 2018 general elections.
Pakistan is ranked 146th at RSF Global Press Freedom Index 2021 report.
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