Pakistan court asks intel agency not to arrest TV journalist

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A court in Islamabad ordered a key Pakistani intelligence agency not to arrest a prominent anchorperson who is accused of spreading fake news and hate content on social media against the military, his colleagues said Wednesday.

The journalist Sami Abrahim is currently in the United States on a personal visit and will return home this week, according to his lawyer Raja Amir Abbas.

Abrahim’s colleagues say a court in Islamabad ordered the FIA on Tuesday to allow him to remain free at least until he attends a court hearing before May 16.

The latest development comes amid a growing campaign against the military by social media activists and the Tehreek-e-Insaf party of former prime minister Imran Khan who was ousted from power last month through a no-confidence vote in the parliament.

Khan himself has publicly criticized the country’s military chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, without naming him directly. Khan claims that he was removed from power by a U.S. plot executed by his political opponents. Washington has denied the charge, and Pakistani authorities have urged people not to spread what they call “fake news” against national institutions, including the military and the judiciary.

In a statement a day before, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also asked Pakistani authorities to “drop their inquiry into journalist Sami Abraham.” In a separate statement, it also asked Pakistan to conduct a “swift and impartial investigation into the police assault of journalist Jahangir Hayat” who was briefly detained this month by police along with his wife and daughter in the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan has long been an unsafe country for journalists. In 2020, it ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Global Impunity Index, which assesses countries where journalists are regularly killed and the assailants go free.

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