Popular Pakistani journalist arrested for criticizing the state

Islamabad, Feb. 27, (dpa/GNA) – Pakistani authorities arrested a prominent journalist for an alleged “malicious” campaign against state institutions, in what rights activists described as a blatant attack on the freedom of expression.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested Asad Ali Toor, known for his criticism of the country’s powerful military, over allegations of running a malicious campaign against state institutions late Monday.

A case under the country’s controversial law, the prevention of electronic crimes act, has been filed against Toor.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded his immediate release and removal of any curbs on freedom of expression.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a statement, also demanded his release.

“Pakistani authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Toor and ensure that journalists do not face retaliation for their critical reporting on institutions, including the judiciary,” the CPJ said.

Rights activist and Toor’s lawyer Imaan Mazari said that the FIA had arrested the journalist when he volunteered to appear in a “frivolous inquiry.”

Mazari said that Toor was arrested in violation of court orders that asked authorities not to harass the journalist.

“A journalist is being treated as a terrorist,” Mazari said.

In his vlogs, Toor had criticized Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa over the court’s decision to the strip the cricket bat symbol of former prime minister Imran Khan’s party before the elections.

Khan, a former cricket star, won the first and only Pakistani Cricket World Cup championship in 1992 and the bat is heavily associated with him and the party.

Toor is one of dozens of journalists who came into the crosshairs of the judiciary for their critical reporting during the controversial elections in Pakistan. 

In 2021, Toor was badly tortured by unknown gunmen who stormed his apartment for his criticism of the military.