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PAS, other journalist bodies urge SC to abolish JIT probing journalists in anti-judges campaign on social media

ISLAMABAD: On Thursday, journalist bodies, including the Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS) and the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association, jointly filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to invalidate the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) established by the caretaker federal government to probe the alleged anti-judges social media campaign.

PAS, represented by its President Aqeel Afzal, and IHCJA submitted the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, listing the Ministry of Interior Secretary and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as respondents.

The journalist bodies, represented by Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed, called on the apex court to annul the notification issued by the caretaker government on January 16 forming the JIT and any subsequent FIA notices issued based on that notification.

They petitioned the Supreme Court to declare that the anti-crime agency lacked jurisdiction to investigate the alleged “explicit and malicious campaign against judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan” or “derogatory remarks against the superior judiciary of Pakistan.”

They argued that such actions violated various articles of the Constitution and exceeded the powers granted by the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.

Additionally, both journalist associations urged the court to strike down Rule 17 of the PECA Investigation Rules 2018 and Section 30 of PECA 2016, which allow the inclusion of intelligence and other government or public sector organizations/agencies in a JIT.

The petition commenced with a quote by George Washington, underscoring the importance of freedom of speech. It questioned the chilling effect and unreasonable restriction on free speech and information caused by FIA’s broad inquiries, JIT appointments, and numerous summons under section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) regarding vague allegations against the judiciary.

Furthermore, the petitioners questioned whether the executive’s involvement in punishing speech that criticizes the court infringes upon the doctrine of separation of powers, emphasizing that such discretion should solely rest with the apex court under Article 204 of the Constitution.

Both press associations emphasized that the petition was brought pro bono publico to address the unlawful and intimidating use of state power to stifle free speech and criticism related to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

They asserted that freedom of speech is fundamental to democracy and serves as a vital safeguard against abuse of power by state institutions.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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