Young journalist Zafarullah Achakzai is handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on June 28, 2017, to try him under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act law after paramilitary force Frontier Corps (FC) personnel picked him up from his residence in Quetta city of Balochistan province on June 25, 2017, following his posts on his social media page.
“We are concerned at the authorities’ zero-tolerance for critics on social media and arrest of journalist Zafarullah Achakzai is a grim reminder that more arrests will follow for same reason in near future,” Freedom Network, Pakistan’s first media watchdog organization, said in its Press Freedom Alert issued on June 29, 2017.
It added: “Booking a journalist under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) law for just writing few posts well negates the authorities’ stated commitment to holding Freedom of Expression in high esteem.”
“We demand immediate withdrawal of all charges against the young journalist and join Baluchistan Union of Journalists, Quetta Press Club and Balochistan chapter of Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors to condemn the arrest first and then the absurd charges against the journalist.”
Zafarullah Achakzai, 21, who works with Daily Qudrat newspaper in Quetta – capital of violence-hit Balochistan province – as chief reporter, was picked up from his residence on June 25 morning, his father Naimatullah Achakzai, who is chief editor and owner of the paper, told Quetta Press Club Safety Hub, managed by Freedom Network.
A joint meeting of Balochistan Union of Journalists, Quetta Press Club and Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) condemned the arrest of Achakzai and demanded that next time authorities should avoid taking action against any journalist before the representative bodies of journalist community were informed of crimes a journalist was alleged to have committed.
“They (paramilitary force personnel) broke into our house in wee hours of Sunday breaking main door and picked up my journalist son Zafarullah Achakzai,” the father went on to add on June 28, 2017.
He said the reason for his journalist son’s arrest was “Facebook posts.” He said local police authorities were unhappy with him after he uploaded video of a lawmaker who was arrested in connection with alleged murder of traffic police in Quetta.
Zafarullah, 21, was arguing in defence of the arrested lawmaker who, he believed, was innocent and “targeted by a section of journalists to punish him for standing up against corruption.”
RSF obtained some posts of the arrested journalist giving clear hint why the paramilitary force arrested him.
One post in Urdu reads: “What action has been taken against officials of security agencies after terrorist acts in Quetta?” Another post reads: “Has any journalist told you that FC is taking 10 percent (as commission) from owners of coalmines and chromite mines?”
Daily Qudrat is published from Quetta city since 2004 and the chief editor says the Facebook page of the newspaper has millions of followers with editions from Islamabad and Karachi are also published.