The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Pakistani authorities to release and drop all legal proceedings against television reporter Rizwan Razi, who is accused of making “defamatory” comments against the country’s authorities.
"Expressing opinions, even critical opinions, should not be a crime, in Pakistan or anywhere," the New York-based media watchdog’s Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said in a statementon February 9.
"Justice -- and Pakistan's constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press -- can only be served by Rizwan Razi's immediate release," Butler added.
Razi’s arrest comes as media workers and activists face unprecedented pressure from Pakistani authorities. Dozens of rights activists and journalists critical of authorities have been detained, arrested, or fled the country out of fear for their safety in recent years.
Razi -- a TV host for Din News, a privately owned Urdu-language news station -- was taken from his home and placed in custody in the eastern city of Lahore on the morning of February 9.
His son, Osama Razi, said that unknown men attacked his father and then dragged him into a car.
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Razi had been arrested for social-media postings that allegedly violated Pakistan's Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
Razi was being investigated for alleged "defamatory and obnoxious posts" on his Twitter account against Pakistan’s "judiciary, government institutions, and intelligence agencies," according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The agency also said that the journalist had "confessed" to uploading the posts, apologized, and promised to refrain from posting similar material in the future.
It was unclear what specifically led to Razi’s arrest.
Earlier this month, he criticized extrajudicial killings in Punjab Province at the hands of security forces, according to screenshots of Twitter postings provided to the CPJ, the media watchdog said.
The journalist’s Twitter account appeared to be offline on February 9.
Pakistan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
With reporting by AP and Reuters