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Pakistani Police Release Journalist Accused Of Spreading Hateful Content Against Army


A Pakistani journalist signs a banner during a protest against the deteriorating security situation for journalists in the country in May 2018 (file photo).

Police in Pakistan's port city of Karachi have released a local journalist accused of spreading hateful content against the country's militay on social media as a court reprimanded the police for overstepping their mandate, a lawyer for journalist Bilal Farooqi said.

“The court asked the police if a FIR (first information report) does not stand ground, who has given you authority to pick up people from home,” Ghulam Shabbir, Farooqi's lawyer told Reuters on September 12.

Farooqi, who works for the English-language Express Tribune newspaper, was arrested at his home on September 11.

"Through his [social media] posts, Bilal Farooqi defamed the Pakistan Army and anti-state elements used these posts for their vested interests," a police report seen by Reuters said.

The report also alleged that his online activity spread religious hatred and incited mutiny against the military.

Shabbir said he expected the police report to be submitted within a week and for the case to be discharged.

"The charges against me are so absurd, that I am spreading religious hatred and defaming institutions, these are all bogus charges," Farooqi told Reuters before his court appearance.

Earlier, Farooqi's family told local media that police seized his mobile phone during a search of their home.

Journalists and press freedom advocates have accused the Pakistani military and its agencies of pressuring media outlets to smother critical coverage.

Farooqi's arrest and subsequent release is the latest in a series of such moves against journalists who have been critical of the government or military.

It also comes days after Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted that Pakistan has a free media.

Police cited the country's cybercrime law that critics say contains vague language, which can be used to criminalize basic online activities.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier this week expressed concern at instances of incitement to violence against journalists and human rights activists.

"We have raised our concerns directly with the government and we have urged immediate, concrete steps to ensure the protection of journalists and human rights defenders who have been subjected to threats," it said in a statement.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

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