South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, vehemently condemns the arrest of Shahid Aslam, a special correspondent of BOL News, a privately owned official News TV channel of BOL Media Group, without any notice on the night of 13 January 2023.  He was arrested for allegedly passing on tax data of former army chief General (retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa, to Fact Focus, a platform for investigative journalism. He is accused of bribing a Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) employee for purposes of collecting information for which no evidence has been found so far. Aslam was released on bail on 19 January 2023.

 Shahid Aslam’s arrest without notice clearly indicates the risk entailed for journalists and media personnel in Pakistan, specifically those who critique the military. It was only in October 2022, Arshad Sharif, the Pakistani investigative journalist who fled the country for being critical about the military, was killed in Kenya, two months after he left Pakistan.

Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act 2021 of Pakistan guarantees the rights of journalists and media professionals including the right to privacy and confidentiality of sources. However the Act is yet to be implemented despite repeated demands to protect fundamental rights of journalists.

SAHR calls upon the relevant authorities of the Government of Pakistan to immediately release Shahid Aslam unconditionally. The Government of Pakistan must end harassment of journalists and respect the freedom of expression of the people as enshrined in the constitution.

On behalf of the members of SAHR

Dr. Roshmi Goswami
Co-chairperson

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu
Bureau member