Shijal ChudasamaJanuary 19, 2023

Pakistani journalist granted bail in connection with suspected Bajwa tax leak case

Pakistani journalist granted bail in connection with suspected Bajwa tax leak case

In a case involving the alleged disclosure of tax information for former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and his family, a court in Islamabad has approved the release of journalist Shahid Aslam on bail.

Aslam, a Bol News reporter, was detained by the Federal Investigation Agency last week in the eastern city of Lahore before being sent to Islamabad.

Aslam was accused of giving the news website FactFocus information about General Bajwa's and his family's personal tax information, which was then published in November, just before the army chief's retirement.

Aslam denied being the source of the leak.

The FactFocus article claimed that Bajwa and his family had accumulated fortunes totaling around $52 million, and it provided official tax records and wealth declarations to support the claims.

Media and civil rights organizations denounced Aslam's arrest and charged the administration with intimidating the press into silence. The arrest received criticism from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Asia program coordinator for the organization, Beh Lih Yi, stated in a statement that the arrest of reporter Shahid Aslam "underscores the perilous environment for journalists in Pakistan."

According to the nation's journalist safety statute, the authorities "shall immediately and unconditionally free Aslam and protect his right to privacy and the confidentiality of his sources."

Aslam's freedom of expression was curtailed by the detention, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and "such techniques set the hazardous precedent of hindering the work of investigative journalists."

"Space for free expression and criticism in Pakistan is increasingly decreasing," Human Rights Watch warned last month.

A free press and a thriving civil society are being sacrificed in Pakistan's politicians' ongoing power battle, the statement read.

According to Reporters Without Borders' annual press freedom rating for 2022, Pakistan was placed 157th out of 180 nations. It was a 12 spot drop from the standings in 2021.

Lawyer Aftab Alam, a media law expert from Islamabad, said: "Sedition laws are being eliminated in other nations, but we still utilize it."

He stated, "This is a relic of colonial-era legislation, and time and time again we have seen its use in the name of national interests or to prevent so-called fake news."

He claimed that the government was controlling the populace through these acts. "Our laws need to be changed."

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