PPF welcomes observations by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa of no tolerance for press intimidation; remain vary of observations questioning the intentions of the media, which open the door for doubt and action against journalists


Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) welcomes observations by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa that “intimidation of the press would not be tolerated at any costs.” However, PPF is also vary of observations made by the top judge regarding the process of verification that the media should be implementing and the limits of free expression under Article 19. Such observations by the top judge open the door for doubt toward the media and for state bodies like the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against journalists.

By questioning the role of the media in airing the allegations by former Rawal­pindi commissioner Liaquat Ali Chatha,  the CJP’s stance on not tolerating intimidation of the press is negated as it questions the intentions of the media. The media must be able to determine its own standards and procedures for verification.

During a hearing of the harassment of journalists and a joint petition about inquiries by the FIA against journalists, CJP Isa said that intimidation of the press would not be tolerated at any cost since it involves key fundamental rights.

According to Dawn, during the proceedings, the SC bench inquired whether notices issued to journalists were based on a report by judges or the registrar of the apex court, they Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) said they had not. Additionally, the chief justice had rejected and “expressed serious displeasure” on reports furnished by the capital police and the FIA on harassment of journalists.

In January, notices were issued by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to several dozen journalists and media professionals for being part of an “explicit and malicious campaign against Honorable Judges of [the] Supreme Court of Pakistan.” On February 26, journalist and YouTuber Asad Ali Toor was arrested by FIA in connection to the alleged smear campaign.

CJP Isa’s observations are welcome as they question the basis for the notices issued to the journalists and provide a mechanism to hold the FIA to account.

During the same proceeding, When discussing the allegations made by Chatha about rigging in which he specifically named the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the chief justice of being involved, which he later withdrew, CJP Isa said that the allegations were run by television channels without any verification. He added that no journalist had asked Chata for proof of his allegations.

“When the credibility of the institutions are tarnished, we all get affected,” the top judge was quoted saying.

The chief justice said that Article 19 of the Consitution “did not give a license to level baseless allegations.”

While the chief justice has a right to defend himself against allegations and to question the credibility of such allegations, it is not the job of the media to work as a court of law and dissect the credibility of the allegations. The media must operate within its own ethical and professional standards that ensure verified and credible news is aired.

Additionally, these remarks negate his observation that intimidation of the press would not be tolerated as they leave the door open for questioning the media’s intentions and, in turn, for taking action against them.

For the media to be able to work safely without fear of reprisal, as has been observed recently in the alleged smear campaign against the judiciary that led to the arrest of journalist Asad Ali Toor, we urge the top judge to focus on ensuring the safety of the media and act against the heavy-handedness of the state towards journalists and media professionals.