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SPJ calls for release of Pakistani journalist and SPJ member from prison


Patricia Gallagher Newberry, SPJ National President, 513-702-4065, pattinewberryspj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists calls for the immediate release of Pakistani journalist and SPJ member Azhar-ul Haq Wahid from a Lahore, Punjab, prison.

Wahid was arrested on Jan. 16 for posting “anti-state” content on Facebook. Reporters Without Borders reports that Wahid is facing up to three years in prison under articles 11 and 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), “which penalizes such vaguely-worded crimes as ‘offenses against the dignity of a natural person.’”

“SPJ supports Azhar-ul Haq Wahid and condemns the censorship and intimidation tactics being used by the Pakistani regime to silence him and other journalists in the region,” said SPJ National President Patricia Gallagher Newberry. “No government should arrest or jail journalists for doing their work.”

Wahid is a reporter for the newspaper Khabrain and Channel Five TV. He is also a member of the Lahore Press Club.

Reporters Without Borders obtained a copy of the police report in Wahid’s arrest that says, “anti-state and defamatory materials against the public functionaries and state departments” was posted on Wahid’s Facebook page. But the police report fails to identify the offending material.

A request for his release was rejected by a judge on Monday.

Wahid joined SPJ in June 2018 and has attended the Excellence in Journalism conference.

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