A Pakistani journalist critical of the government and the army has been detained for five days for having published “anti-state” comments online, his lawyer told AFP Tuesday, in a new illustration of shrinking freedoms in Pakistan.
Azhar-ul Haq Wahid, who worked for a small television and newspaper with a limited readership, made several comments about the Pakistani establishment on his Facebook account.
He recently wrote that a court decision to lift the death penalty on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had “mocked” the constitution.
A police report said “anti-state and defamatory material against the public functionaries and state departments” was noted on his Facebook account, according to a copy seen by AFP.
Wahid was arrested last Thursday in the eastern city of Lahore, and has been in custody since. His lawyer Mian Dawood said a court must decide his bail later this week.
The arrest “is only to threaten the freedom of media” which has faced “blatant censorship for last three years in Pakistan”, Dawood told AFP.
It is “clearly another attempt to intimidate journalists who refuse to be censored,” said the head of the Asia-Pacific office of Reporters Without Borders Daniel Bastard, asking the Pakistani justice “dismiss the charges against Wahid and free him at once.
Pakistan has long been one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, once caught between Islamist militants and the powerful security establishment.
However security has dramatically improved in recent years. Now Pakistani media complain of increasing censorship and pressure by the military establishment.
In 2018 the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that the military had “quietly but effectively” imposed strict limits on the scope of general news reporting.