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New York, February 26, 2024—Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency arrested independent journalist Asad Ali Toor on Monday after he was ordered to appear for questioning in connection to an alleged “explicit and malicious” campaign against Supreme Court judges, according to news reports and the journalist’s lawyer, Imaan Mazari-Hazir, who spoke to CPJ. Toor operates Asad Toor Uncensored, a YouTube channel where he covers political affairs with over 160,000 subscribers.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Toor, and to cease harassing him for his journalistic work. Toor was arrested in the capital, Islamabad, at the FIA’s cybercrime wing.

The FIA refused to allow Mazari-Hazir or Toor’s two other lawyers to accompany the journalist for questioning, Mazari-Hazir said, adding that the agency subsequently locked its entrance door and turned off the lights of the building. Then, an FIA official emerged from the building and informed the lawyers of the journalist’s arrest.

An FIA guard provided Toor’s lawyers with a handwritten note from the journalist, reviewed by CPJ, asking for his 78-year-old mother to be taken to a relative’s home.

As of Tuesday morning, Toor’s lawyers had not received a copy of a first information report opening an investigation into the journalist, according to Mazari-Hazir.

On Friday, authorities detained and questioned Toor without access to legal representation at the FIA cybercrime wing headquarters, according to news reports, Mazari-Hazir, and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ before his arrest. Toor was released around eight hours later and received a notice shortly thereafter to appear for questioning on Monday.

Toor filed a petition, reviewed by CPJ, on Monday asking the Islamabad High Court to declare the FIA notices in relation to both summons for questioning as unlawful, order the agency to provide a list of allegations against the journalist, and not to harass or unlawfully detain him.

The Chief Justice’s order in response on Monday, reviewed by CPJ, stated that Toor should join the inquiry proceedings but “shall not be harassed.”

“We are appalled by the arrest of Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor in apparent violation of an order by the Islamabad High Court,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna. “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.”

Mazari-Hazir told CPJ that Toor’s legal team will file a petition on Tuesday morning challenging his arrest at the Islamabad High Court.

Toor and Mazari-Hazir said the journalist found out about the summons for the February 23 interrogation the day before through social media because the notice was sent to a prior address.

Six plainclothes men were present during the February 23 questioning, but Toor was not sure what agency they were from, he told CPJ, adding that the men refused to identify themselves when Toor requested.

The men did not provide a list of allegations or a copy of any complaint against the journalist when asked, Toor told CPJ, adding that the men questioned him about why he criticized the chief justice of the Supreme Court, where he received information for his reporting, and information about his journalistic sources. They also threatened Toor with raiding his home, detaining him, and confiscating his devices, the journalist told CPJ.

In January, the FIA cybercrime wing summoned dozens of journalists, including Toor, in relation to the alleged campaign against Supreme Court judges following an order upholding an electoral commission decision barring the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan from using its cricket bat symbol to identify candidates for the February 8 election.

Toor has recently reported critically on the chief justice of Pakistan and the country’s military establishment on YouTube and X, formerly known as Twitter.

In May 2021, three unidentified men—one of whom Toor said identified himself as an agent with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency—beat, bound, and gagged the journalist inside his Islamabad apartment. Toor recalled the incident in a BBC documentary released on February 16, 2024.

CPJ called and messaged Pakistan Information Minister Murtaza Solangi for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Source of original article: Committee to Protect Journalists (
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