Pakistan’s FIA arrests journalist and a critic of the establishment, Asad Ali Toor

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paki journalist arrested
Asad Ali Toor in FIA custody (Photo: X)

In a deeply concerning turn of events, Asad Ali Toor, an independent journalist well-known for his candid and critical political reporting, has been arrested by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The arrest is linked to alleged involvement in an “explicit and malicious” campaign against Supreme Court judges, raising serious questions about the state of press freedom in the country.

Toor, the creator of YouTube channel “Asad Toor Uncensored” with over 160,000 subscribers, was taken into custody after being ordered to appear for questioning. The manner in which the arrest unfolded has intensified worries about the treatment of journalists critical of the authorities.

In a controversial move, the FIA denied Toor’s legal representation, refusing entry to his lawyers during the questioning. Reports suggest that the FIA took extreme measures, locking the entrance door and plunging the building into darkness before officially informing the legal team of the arrest.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has highlighted the distressing details of the arrest, including a handwritten note from Toor, provided by an FIA guard to Toor’s lawyer, urgently requesting the safety of his elderly mother. This adds a human dimension to the situation, emphasizing the potential personal toll on journalists and their families.

Toor’s legal team, led by lawyer Mazari-Hazir, are yet to receive a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) initiating the investigation. This lack of transparency raises concerns about the legitimacy of the charges against the journalist.

In a bold move, Toor filed a petition with the Islamabad High Court, challenging the legality of the FIA notices and seeking protection from harassment or unlawful detention. The response from the Chief Justice, stating that Toor should participate in the inquiry without harassment, provides some relief but does little to address the broader concerns.

Earlier questioning

During the initial questioning on February 23, Asad Ali Toor reported the presence of six unidentified individuals in plainclothes, adding an element of intimidation to the situation. Furthermore, the absence of a list of allegations during the first round of questioning and threats of home raids and device confiscation only deepen the apprehensions surrounding the case.

This arrest follows a pattern of government actions against journalists critical of the establishment. In January, the FIA cybercrime wing summoned several journalists, including Toor, over alleged campaigns against Supreme Court judges, following a controversial decision related to symbols used by political parties.

Asad Ali Toor’s critical reporting on Pakistan’s chief justice and military establishment has made him a target in the past. A violent incident in May 2021, where he was attacked in his apartment, raised concerns about the safety of journalists in the country.

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