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RSF Condemns 'Trumped-Up Charges' Against Pakistani Investigative Journalist

RSF said that the case against Shahzeb Jillani has been designed to "intimidate and silence" Pakistan’s journalists.
RSF said that the case against Shahzeb Jillani has been designed to "intimidate and silence" Pakistan’s journalists.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned what it calls "trumped-up charges" against a Pakistani journalist.

Shahzeb Jillani, an investigative reporter who works for the Urdu-language Dunya News TV channel, is accused of "cyberterrorism" and making "defamatory remarks against the respected institutions of Pakistan."

Jillani is due to appear in court in the port city of Karachi on April 17.

The Paris-based media watchdog said in a statement on April 16 that the case against Jillani has been designed to intimidate and silence Pakistan’s journalists and called on the court to dismiss the charges.

He has been charged under a controversial cybercrimes act and two Criminal Code provisions.

"Pakistan's authorities are yet again manipulating the laws in order to silence a journalist who dared to cross a red line by criticizing certain institutions," said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk. "It is shocking to see how, little by little, case by case, the Pakistani security agencies are tightening their vice in order to intimidate the entire media profession into censoring themselves."

'Sarcastic' Language

Jillani, who previously worked for the BBC and Deutsche Welle, is known for his critical reporting on Pakistan's powerful army and intelligence services.

Criticism of the military establishment has long been seen as a red line for the media, with journalists and bloggers complaining of intimidation tactics including kidnappings, beatings, and even killings if they cross that line.

In September 2018, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that the climate for press freedom in Pakistan was deteriorating as the country's powerful army "quietly, but effectively" restricted reporting through "intimidation" and other means.

Jillani is accused of making "audacious remarks against invisible security forces of Pakistan" during an appearance on Dunya TV in 2017, and making similar comments in 2019.

The police report into the complaint said Jillani had also tweeted "sarcastic, derogatory, disrespectful and defamatory language" against Pakistani state institutions.

With reporting by AFP
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