Home Politics Imran Riaz Khan, Pakistani Journalist, Detained Over Alleged Hate Speech

Imran Riaz Khan, Pakistani Journalist, Detained Over Alleged Hate Speech

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Imran Riaz Khan, Pakistani Journalist, Detained Over Alleged Hate Speech

On Thursday, February 2nd, Imran Riaz Khan, an anchor with BOL News and a popular YouTube host, was apprehended by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport. Khan, who was bound for the United Arab Emirates, was reportedly arrested in connection with an investigation into alleged hate speech.

According to sources, the FIA’s cybercrime wing is conducting the investigation under the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) and the penal code. This move echoes previous instances where the PECA has been leveraged to target journalists in what appears to be retaliation for their journalistic endeavors.

The arrest and investigation have sparked concern from press freedom advocates. Beh Lih Yi, the Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), emphasized the importance of allowing journalists to freely critique state institutions, including the military, without fear of reprisal. Yi called for Khan’s immediate release and urged authorities to cease targeting journalists for their reporting and commentary.

The allegations against Khan stem from his participation in a seminar on violence against journalists in Pakistan, where he purportedly made remarks deemed as “hate speech” by authorities. Notably, Khan’s comments questioned statements made by Qamar Javed Bajwa, a former army general, regarding the military’s apolitical stance.

The charges against Khan include violations of various sections of the PECA related to electronic forgery and malicious code, as well as accusations under the penal code for offenses such as abetment of mutiny, defamation, and public mischief. Abetment of mutiny carries a severe penalty under the law, potentially resulting in life imprisonment.

This incident is not the first instance of a journalist facing legal action in Pakistan. In January, journalist Shahid Aslam was arrested by FIA for his coverage of the assets of Qamar Javed Bajwa and his family. Aslam was subsequently released on bail.

Efforts to challenge Khan’s arrest are underway, with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists planning to file a petition in court. The Islamabad High Court had previously mandated that the FIA coordinate with journalist unions before taking punitive measures against journalists, a directive that may be invoked in Khan’s case.

Khan’s detention in February follows a previous period of detainment in July 2022, as well as an incident where he was prevented from boarding a flight to Dubai. Despite these challenges, Khan continues to face legal proceedings, raising concerns about press freedom in Pakistan.

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