ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday arrested journalist Mohsin Baig from his home in the Pakistani capital in relation to a case filed by Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed over ‘defamatory’ remarks made by the journalist as a guest on a talk show, officials said.
Baig was part of a TV panel last week in which the anchor and the guest had questioned the prime minister’s decision to award Saeed the top prize in a ceremony celebrating the top 10 best performing federal ministries.
Saeed subsequently registered a first information report (FIR) against Baig with the cybercrime wing of the FIA in Lahore under Sections 20 (offenses against the dignity of a natural person), 21-D (offenses against the modesty of a natural person and minor) and 24 (cyber stalking) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 read with Sections 500 (defaming army officers) and 555 (statement conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIR, a copy of which is available with Arab News, said Baig had “assassinated” Saeed’s character by using “immoral and abusive language” and related a “baseless story with derogatory remarks” which was subsequently shared on social media and had “shattered” the federal minister’s image in public.
“He (Baig) was arrested on the First Information Report (FIR) of the minister for communications Murad Saeed,” Farrukh Habib, state minister for information, confirmed to Arab News.
The FIA’s cybercrime wing said it raided Baig’s house on Wednesday after obtaining a search and seizure warrant from court.
“During the raid Baig, his son and servants directly fired at the FIA team and took two officials hostage,” a press release by the FIA said, adding that Baig was arrested after he ran out of bullets. He was held at the Margalla police station and then produced before an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad and remanded in police custody for three days.
Baig’s cousin Khalid Jahangir told Arab News the family was “very tense and worried about his wellbeing.”
“They came in plainclothes instead of wearing proper uniforms,” he said. “It has been done by design to provoke Baig so that we should do something on which they can make a serious case against him.”
“They had a search warrant but did not show it to him when Baig demanded it from them,” Jahangir said. “The law enforcers wanted this: that he should retaliate on their humiliation and they succeeded in it. We will fight this by utilizing all our legal options.”
Baig’s lawyer told reporters his client told the court that police arrived at his home in plainclothes “like thieves” and tortured him after the arrest.
“Police have asked for three days remand,” lawyer Raheel Niazi said, “which has been granted to them.”
Pakistan has long been an unsafe country for journalists. In 2020, it ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Global Impunity Index, which assesses countries where journalists are regularly killed and the assailants go free.