SHC orders removal of defamatory content about Mehwish Hayat online, issues two-week notices to FIA, PTA

SHC orders removal of defamatory content about Mehwish Hayat online, issues two-week notices to FIA, PTA

The actor filed a petition against “malicious” content maligning both herself and state institutions that is being propagated by Twitter users.
11 Jan, 2023

Actor Mehwish Hayat has followed in Kubra Khan’s footsteps and taken legal action against YouTuber Adil Raja for defamatory content shared online. The actor had initially approached the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing to look into the matter, however, due to lack of progress, she approached the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday for remedy.

A petition was filed in the SHC by Hayat that reads that the London Nahi Jaunga actor is “aggrieved by a social media storm generated and precipitating due to certain videos made by an individual by the name Adil Farooq Raja who claims to be a self-professed ‘geopolitical analyst’ and ‘rights activist’ maintaining a YouTube channel by the name of Soldier Speaks as well as a Twitter handle by the name Soldier Speaks”.

She called the allegations levelled by Raja “blatantly false, derogatory, defamatory, malicious, incendiary, dangerous [and] sensationalising” and said they “degrad[ed]” the four actors he mentioned in his video, “causing an affront to their modesty and dignity by alleging that they were used by intelligence agencies and the establishment to lure politicians into compromising positions at safe houses maintained by such agencies where videos were made of such actresses with such politicians.”

Her petition stated that after the livestream aired, several social media users on Twitter and Instagram started superimposing Hayat’s pictures as well as those of other actors whose initials were uttered by Raja. She argued that Raja spelled out Hayat’s name initials M and H in the video and “certain social media users intentionally with an interest to malign state institutions and to malign the reputation of the petitioner launched a social media campaign on such a video aired by Mr Raja.”

In the petition, several Twitter accounts other than Raja’s have been named for “propagating” the video and its “malicious content” that maligns the state institutions as well as Hayat.

“Despite the clarification contained in the second video, the social media users mentioned in Para 6 above did not abate their campaign, in fact the above mentioned comments made by Mr Raja gave wind to the incendiary campaign being run by the individual social media users mentioned in Para 6, creating a threatening environment for the petitioner. Given the current high political temperature of the country, and the ongoing political battle between certain political parties of the country, such insinuation and allegations against the petitioner have made her fear for her life at the hands of overzealous political workers who may target her because of the incendiary remarks against the petitioner made by the users as detailed in Para 6 hereinabove,” read the petition.

Hayat has petitioned the court under sections 11 (hate speech), 20 (offences against dignity of a natural person), 21 (offences against modesty of a natural person and minor) and 37 (unlawful online content) of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

The petition stated that there have been countless previous instances where the dignity of women is “ridiculed in such fashion over social media”, however, it’s high time official respondents are taken to “task for their sluggish attitude in such circumstances and their derogation from their official duties of protecting the dignity and reputation of the persons like the petitioner”.

“Despite the law sufficiently empowering the official respondents to take action in such circumstances, it has been noted time and again that no immediate protection or relief is accorded to the complainants before the official respondents, forcing them to bring the matter to the attention of the Honourable Courts,” the petition stated.

In her petition, Hayat asked for six areas of relief from the court — that the court direct the FIA to take immediate action on her complaints, that it direct the FIA to inquire and take action as per the law against the users mentioned in the petition and for the court to declare that the FIA’s inaction in the interim period is in derogation of the duties cast upon them by PECA, 2016.

She also asks that “the Honourable Court may be pleased to direct the official Respondents/FIA to conclude their inquiries and pass appropriate orders for the prosecution of such individuals, including but not limited to the users mentioned in Para 6 hereinabove, and others as are found to have contravened the provision of PECA, 2016, by damaging the reputation, modesty and dignity of the petitioner through the use of social media platforms as well as causing harm to national integrity and state institutions.” She has also asked for the costs of instant proceedings in the favour of Hayat and any and all relief granted to her as deemed fit and appropriate.

The SHC ordered the FIA to remove the content that maligns Hayat and issued two-week notices to the FIA and PTA regarding the defamation case. Speaking to the media outside the court, Hayat said that she hopes that the people who defamed her are held accountable for their actions.

What happened

On January 2, Kubra Khan threatened to sue YouTuber Raja for defamation after a video in which he said that four “top models and actresses” had illicit relationships with former top generals.

“I stayed quiet initially because obviously a fake video isn’t going to take over my existence but ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Do you think random people can point fingers at me and I’ll sit quietly and take it?” she wrote on Instagram and Twitter.

“So Mr Adil Raja before you start to heap allegations upon people have some proof first. You have a total of three days to come up with this proof which you claim is haq and sach. If not, either retract your statement and publicly apologise or I will be suing you for defamation. And don’t worry, lucky for you I’m not just from here, I am from UK so I’ll come there if I have to! Cause the truth is with me, rights are with me and I don’t fear anyone or their fathers,” Khan said.

Raja, who describes himself on Twitter as a geopolitical analyst and rights activist, released a video on December 31 in which he made several sweeping statements against the former top leadership of the army. One allegation was that four “top models and actresses” would fraternise with the former officials as well as with politicians. He was unable to substantiate his claims with proof other than claiming it was revealed to him by “sources”.

He also mentioned the initials of the four women he was making the claims about — MK, MH, SA and KK or AK. The confusion in the last set of initials was compounded when he claimed to have said AK after Khan’s tweet.

Amid widespread speculation on social media of who the actors he mentioned could be, given the initials, Hayat and Sajal Aly had shared messages slamming “baseless insinuations” and “character assassination”.

Several other members of the entertainment fraternity have called out the YouTuber for his video and expressed their support for women actors.

Khan has already filed a petition against Raja and the SHC has directed the FIA and PTA to block defamatory content posted about her.