Pakistan authorities must immediately cease harassing journalist Peer Muhammad Khan Kakar, drop any investigations into his work, and allow him to report freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On July 7, police in the Loralai district of the southwest Balochistan province arrested Kakar, a correspondent for the privately owned broadcaster Dunya News, according to the journalist’s son Amirullah Kakar, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and a statement by the Pakistan Press Foundation, a local press freedom group.
His son said the arrest was in response to an application filed to a local court regarding Kakar’s writing about alleged local government corruption on his personal Facebook page, where he has about 33,000 followers and frequently posts political commentary.
On July 14, the journalist was released on bail on the condition that he appear before a local court if summoned in relation to the case, his son told CPJ.
“The arrest of Pakistani journalist Peer Muhammad Khan Kakar over his social media posts on alleged government corruption is an unacceptable abuse of power,” said CPJ Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “Authorities must immediately cease harassing Kakar, drop any pending investigations brought in retaliation for his commentary, and allow him to pursue his journalistic work without interference.”
In late June, Kakar published multiple Facebook posts alleging that Loralai Deputy Commissioner Ateeq Ur Rehman, a government administrator, had engaged in corruption by using public money for personal gain.
In a defamation notice dated June 28, 2022, which CPJ reviewed, Rehman demanded that Kakar provide proof of his allegations within three days or face criminal action.
Amirullah Kakar told CPJ that the journalist never received the notice, and the family was not aware of it until after Kakar’s arrest. When reached via phone for comment, Rehman said that he sent the notice to the journalist on June 28, and that he stood by the allegations in it.
On July 7, a Loralai court issued an arrest warrant for Kakar after a member of Rehman’s staff filed an application demanding that the journalist be detained under a section of Pakistan’s penal code pertaining to defamation, according to a copy of the application, which CPJ reviewed, and the journalist’s son. That section of the penal code carries prison terms of up to two years an unspecified fine for those convicted of violations.
Amirullah Kakar told CPJ that police have not filed a first information report, a document which opens an official investigation, in the journalist’s case. Those reports are typically required for such cases, the journalist’s son said, adding that he believed Rehman’s involvement made this an exceptional situation.
After the publication of this article, Kareem Mandokhel, station house officer of the Loralai police station, told CPJ via messaging app that he denied any allegations that Kakar’s arrest was an abuse of power, and said police had followed the appropriate procedures.