Pakistan briefly detains journalists over ‘scandalous content’ on YouTube

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Pakistani authorities briefly detained two prominent journalists in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday, drawing condemnation from human rights activists, political leaders, and the country’s media.

A senior official from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, the FIA, said Amir Mir and Imran Shafqat were detained after posting “scandalous content” on social media, prompting a complaint from the government’s minister. He did not say whether the two had been charged with any crime.

“They uploaded scandalous content on YouTube and they are being questioned about a complaint lodged by a minister, Murad Saeed,” said the FIA’s Babar Bakht Qureshi. Later, the FIA issued a statement saying that the two had been released on bail after questioning and that charges would later be filed in court.

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The video in question was an informal roundtable discussion where journalists discussed the army’s role in politics and the judiciary in Pakistan. The government did not have any immediate comment about the detentions, which were made in two separate raids.

Mir’s brother Hamid broke news of the two detentions on Twitter. Hamid is himself a prominent journalist, who hosted a popular TV talk show but was taken off the air two months after criticizing the country’s powerful military. Since then the elder Mir has not been reinstated by his channel, Geo News.

The other journalist who was detained Saturday was Imran Shafqat. He had worked for several newspapers and is also active on social media.

The detentions come as press freedom is increasingly under threat in Pakistan, where advocates and journalists often accuse the military and its agencies of harassing and attacking them.

In one recent unsolved case, Asad Ali Toor, a critic of the army’s role in politics, was beaten up by three unidentified men in his apartment in Islamabad. Police said those involved would be brought to justice, but so far no one has been apprehended. The government insists it supports freedom of speech.

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