Committee to Protect Journalists to Pakistan: Stop Harassing Reporter

Published: 18 March 2024

Asad Ali Toor

Asad Ali Toor, Pakistani freelance journalist. (Photo: Asad Toor Uncensored Youtube Channel/screenshot, License)

By Haroon Janjua

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) demanded on Friday that Pakistan must unconditionally and immediately release freelance journalist Asad Ali Toor, who is being harassed in retaliation for his journalistic work. The CPJ noted that his detention constitutes "an egregious violation of press freedom."

Toor, a journalist and video blogger who has criticized Pakistan’s Chief Justice as well as the country’s powerful military establishment, was detained by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) last month for what authorities called “orchestrating a malicious campaign” against Supreme Court judges.

The New York-based press freedom watchdog, CPJ, demanded that Pakistani authorities stop harassing the reporter and return the devices they have confiscated from him.

"The ongoing detention and investigation of journalist Asad Ali Toor, as well as authorities’ seizure of his devices and pressure to disclose his sources, constitute an egregious violation of press freedom in Pakistan," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi.

"Authorities must cease using the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and other draconian laws to persecute journalists and silence critical reporting and commentary," the statement said.

"The FIR content is lacking material evidence, and these are completely absurd charges against him," Toor’s lawyer Imaan Mazari told OCCRP.

"We don’t have access to him despite court orders we have obtained to see him," she said, adding that Toor was on a hunger strike from February 28 to March 3 in protest of his "illegal detention."

In 2021, Toor was attacked by three people at his apartment in the capital of Islamabad. He was tied up and beaten with a pistol.

Pakistan is considered one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists and media workers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Perpetrators involved in attacks against journalists are rarely sentenced.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), campaigning to safeguard freedom of information, ranked Pakistan 150 out of 180 countries on media rights in its latest World Press Freedom Index.