A senior Pakistani journalist working with a leading English daily was arrested on Friday for allegedly defaming the country’s Army and fanning sectarian hate. Bilal Farooqi, who works with The Express Tribune, was taken into custody from his home in Defence Housing Authority by a police team accompanied by two men in plain clothes.
Additional Inspector General Ghulam Nabi Memon told the media that Bilal has been arrested after FIRs were registered against him on the complaint of a citizen who accused him of trying to defame the Pakistan Army and fan sectarian hate on social media with his posts. “Police have taken possession of Bilal’s phone,” a senior journalist, Ebad Ahmed, tweeted.
According to the FIR, complainant Javed Khan, a machine operator at a factory, said that when he checked his Facebook and Twitter accounts, he found “highly objectionable material” shared by Farooqi. The complainant claimed that “highly provocative posts” had been shared by Farooqi against the Pakistan Army and material pertaining to religious hatred.
Khan alleged that Farooqi had “defamed” the Pakistan Army and such social media posts may be used by hostile elements for their “nefarious designs”. The Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), in a statement, said that the arrest of Bilal was part of the nefarious and concerted campaign to gag the free and independent voices”.
“Bilal Farooqi, an active journalist who also remained on the executive committee of the KUJ, has been an educated and responsible youth, who never indulged in any kind of violation of Pakistani laws, it said. “His only crime is that he dissents with the ruling elites and raises his voice for the betterment and a progressive society,” KUJ president Ashraf Khan said.
In July, another senior journalist Matiullah Jan was abducted from the outside of a school where his wife was a lecturer. He returned home 12 hours later and said he was released by unidentified persons in a deserted area outside Islamabad.