ISLAMABAD: A case has been registered against a private TV channel for airing a news report allegedly based on forged documents amid protests and warnings from journalistic circles.

The FIR was lodged by Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director Imran Khan Jadoon, under Sections 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (Using as genuine a forged document), 500 (Punishment for defamation) and 505 (Statements conducive to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The FIR stated that the complaint for legal action was “against [unnamed] accused persons who have prepared a fake document on a fake letter pad of the Intelligence Bureau which was aired on [the] ARY News channel… to cause animosity between the honourable parliamentarians and a sensitive state organization.”

The report stated that on Sept 25 and Sept 27, a fake/forged letter prepared by unknown persons on a fake IB letter pad, alleging links between 37 ruling party parliamentarians and militant organisations, was broadcast.

“Attributing scandalous stories to the IB, against which a rebuttal has already been issued, undermines the integrity of a sensitive state organisation,” the FIR stated.

But the move drew the ire of the Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ), which constituted a seven-member fact-finding committee to ascertain the facts regarding the registration of a case against the TV channel, demanding that the interior minister quash the FIR immediately.

An RIUJ notification stated that Arshad Sharif, the anchorperson of the programme in question, stands by his story and has denied the allegation of forging or fabricating the documents.

In a meeting held on Saturday, which was also attended by office-bearers of the Afzal Butt group of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the union demanded that a judicial committee be constituted under a judge of the high court to inquire into the issue.

Headed by senior journalist Nasir Malick, the body consists of Mohammad Riaz, Hamid Mir, Shakil Anjum, Kashif Abbasi, Sagheer Chaudhry and Kalbe Ali, and will meet today (Sunday) to chalk out a plan of action.

The committee members have been tasked with meeting the interior minister, information minister, National Assembly speaker and IB DG to help the government deal with the situation that emerged after the ARY report was broadcast.

The committee will also record Arshad Sharif’s statement over the authenticity of the story and will submit its report within five working days.

In a statement, PFUJ President Afzal Butt said that any step aimed at intimidating or arresting Arshad Sharif or any member of his family before the inquiry was complete would be considered a retaliatory move by the government. He warned that if this were to happen, the PFUJ would launch countrywide protests.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Asad Umar also demanded an independent judicial inquiry into the matter, and also condemned the registration of a case against Arshad Sharif.

When asked to comment, Mr Sharif said that the chief justice of Pakistan should form a high-level judicial commission to ascertain the facts; whether IB was taping/monitoring parliamentarians under the guise of terror-links. He maintained that more facts were available and would only come forth before a high-level judicial commission.

The issue of parliamentarians’ alleged links to militant or banned organisations has already ignited controversy inside and outside parliament and IB has already escalated the matter to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) council of complaints.

Earlier this week, Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Riaz Pirzada also embarrassed the government when he raised this issue on the floor of the National Assembly.‑Courtesy Dawn

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