Thu, 27 Jun 2019

Pakistan has arrested a journalist and academic known for their criticism of the government, as media workers and activists face unprecedented pressure from authorities.

Dozens of rights defenders and journalists critical of authorities have been detained, arrested, or fled the country out of fear for their safety in recent years.

On February 9, Ammar Ali Jan, a college professor in Lahore, was arrested after taking part in a protest organized by the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM). He was later released on bail.

A message on Jan's Facebook page on February 9 said he was arrested at 4 a.m. 'I am a law-abiding citizen and will not be deterred in the fight for justice,' it said.

Police said Jan was charged with taking part in a rally, blocking a road, and making 'antistate' speeches.

The PTM organized a series of protests in various cities this week after the death of PTM regional leader Muhammad Ibrahim Arman Luni in the southwestern province of Balochistan.

Authorities ordered an inquiry into Luni's death, which the PTM blamed on police.

Pakistani authorities have arrested dozens of activists taking part in PTM rallies.

Amnesty International condemned Jan's arrest in a statement on February 9, saying Pakistan must stop using heavy-handed methods to intimidate peaceful protesters.

The PTM, whose support comes mainly from the Pashtun ethnic group in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, has been holding rallies across Pakistan since early 2018 to protest against what it says are human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings by security forces in the tribal regions.

Pakistani activists say they are facing widespread pressure from the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country's all-powerful army, which has an oversized role in domestic and foreign affairs.

Separately on February 9, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said it had arrested journalist Rizwan Razi at his residence in the city of Lahore.

The FIA, Pakistan's law-enforcement agency, said Razi was arrested on a charge of violating the country's cybercrime law.

Razi, who worked for private Din TV, was being investigated for 'defamatory and obnoxious' comments about the judiciary, government, and intelligence services, according to FIA.

Razi's son, Osama, told Reuters and AP that unknown men attacked and then dragged his father into a car.

With reporting by Reuters and AP RFE/RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 25 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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