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Pakistan: Immediately release eight people arrested over critical tweets

QUOTE

Responding to the arrest of eight people, all of whom were detained by the Federal Investigative Agency after they published criticism of the state on Twitter, Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s South Asia Research Director, said:

“The Pakistani authorities must stop using the draconian Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act to punish people who are simply exercising their right to freedom of expression online. For far too long, successive governments have used this law as a tool to crush peaceful dissent and intimidate supporters of political opposition.

Nobody should be arrested merely for expressing their views — whether online or offline

Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s South Asia Research Director

“The eight people arrested across Punjab today must be immediately and unconditionally released. Instead of stepping up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Pakistani authorities should end their repressive crackdown on right to freedom of expression.”

Background

On 13 April, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested eight people across Punjab. The arrests came after the FIA launched a crackdown on social media activists that the agency believes were involved in a smear campaign against state institutions. The FIA has told the media that the arrests are not related to any political opposition parties.

On 9 April, Imran Khan was ousted as prime minister of the country after a vote of no-confidence in the Pakistani parliament. His exit came just days after he tried to block the vote from taking place — an effort that was ruled to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Imran Khan and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, allege that their removal was a result of collusion between the United States and the opposition, prompting nationwide protests from his supporters. The party’s social media team has since launched a campaign on Twitter that seeks to condemn the army, the courts and the country’s new leadership.