Image Credit: Twitter/@smushtaq30

Dubai: The Lahore High Court has issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against prominent Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida, and it has sparked a conversation online about freedom of speech in Pakistan, as well as the rights of media personnel.

The reporter had allegations of treason and an on-going case against him after he interviewed former Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif in May this year. The politician who had previously accused the military of working to remove him from power, spoke against Pakistan’s handling of the Mumbai attacks in 2008 in the interview.

During the hearings, Almeida repeatedly failed to appear in court consequently the non-bailable warrants were issued. The court also directed Almeida to appear in the next hearing, set to take place on October 8.

Following the news of his arrest, the reporter, @cyalm, tweeted: “Spoke to the lawyer, there is a warrant, am back on the ECL (Exit Control List) and will have to appear before the court on October 8... How’s your Monday been?”

Social media users joined the conversation and expressed their concerns. Many of them sided with the reporter and condemned the actions taken against him, while others agreed with the court’s decision.

Twitter user, Zafar Musyani, @Zafermusyani, tweeted at the reporter and wrote: “@cyalm is one of the few journalists in Pakistan who uphold the sanctity of journalism, work objectively and educate the masses without fearing the wrath of the boys (armed forces), unlike most of the journos. He is one of his own kind in the land of pure. #IStandWithCyril”

Similarly, tweep Aisha Sarwari, @AishaFSarwari, posted: “You can tell so much about the priority justice has in #Pakistan by the way the judiciary protects those that disrupt the powerful, those that reveal the layers of society to show who’s running the puppet show and those who give testament to uncomfortable truths #IStandWithCyril”

While user Faisal Sherjan, @fsherjan, might not be fond of Almeida’s work, he also condemned the action taken against him: “I have never had much time for #CyrilAlmeida and his schoolboy essays but to cite him for treason is an absurdity. It raises questions on our interpretation of the constitution, notions of fundamental rights, freedom of speech and justice #IstandWithCyril”

Tweep, Asad Beyg, @asadbeyg, urged the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists to protect the reporter: “#IStandWithCyril because #JournalismIsNotACrime. The journalist fraternity should also. I implore @pfujpakistan and other groups to take notice of the arrest warrant issued in @cyalm’s name immediately and do their best to push back.”

However, there are those who disagree with Almeida’s work and side with the court’s decision. Twitter user, @DecentDera, posted: “#PublicDawnLeakReport There has to be a limit to press freedom. Irresponsible reporting about national security cannot be allowed. #IStandWithCyril No I do not…”