Wednesday June 19, 2024

LHC moved against Punjab Defamation Act 2024

Punjab Defamation ACT 2024 passed by Punjab Assembly (PA) has been challenged in Lahore High Court (LHC)

By Sher Ali Khalti & News Desk
June 09, 2024
A general view of the LHC building in Lahore. — APP/File
A general view of the LHC building in Lahore. — APP/File 

LAHORE: The Punjab Defamation ACT 2024 passed by the Punjab Assembly (PA) has been challenged in the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The petitions challenging the law have been filed by journalist Jaffar Ahmad Yar and a citizen Raja Riaz. In the pleas filed by the two individuals, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, the governor and the provincial government have been made respondents.

The petition stated that the defamation law is against the Constitution and law. It added that a new law cannot be made in the presence of Defamation Act.

The plea lamented that journalists were not consulted before the passing and approval of the defamation law. “Defamation law was hastily introduced to control the media,” the petition maintained, requesting the court to invalidate the “draconian” law.

The Punjab Assembly, on May 20, passed the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024 amid a strong and noisy protest by the opposition as well as backlash from journalists and rights bodies.

After the controversial Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024, became law, the central Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the media bodies has announced boycotting the coverage of government affairs including official events, such as National Assembly and provincial assembly sessions and upcoming federal and provincial budgets to protest the approval of the legislation.

Meanwhile, in a significant move, the President Lahore Press Club has announced a comprehensive boycott of all assemblies, government events, functions and press conferences.

The decision, declared by the club’s President Arshad Ansari, comes in response to the recent implementation of the Defamation Bill. President Ansari, expressing strong opposition to the bill, stated, “We will approach the higher courts for justice. Peaceful protest is our legal and constitutional right and we will use it.”

He emphasized that the Defamation Bill contradicts the Constitution of 1973 by restricting freedom of speech, a fundamental right that the press club is determined to protect.

“We reject this bill completely. We have many options open to us,” Ansari added. “We will go to the court, and there will be a joint action committee meeting to discuss our next steps.”

Meanwhile, Farieha Aziz, co-founder of Bolo Bhi, an organisation focused on advocacy, policy, and research on digital rights and civic responsibility, insisted that the “law must be challenged”.

Speaking to Geo, Aziz maintained the fact this bill has received the assent of the governor shows consultations were for optics. She added the government does not care for input or to legislate in a democratic and transparent manner.

“The Defamation Bill which now goes on to become an Act, has been introduced to privilege the ruling elite and control all dissent through hefty fines by introducing a claimant-friendly law without recourse for defendants as it should exist in accordance with the principles of natural justice,” said the Bolo Bhi co-founder.

Aziz, a vocal proponent of free speech, added that this will create a chilling effect and there will be selective casualties.

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), held an emergency meeting to discuss the development and decided to record their protest against the law. —  Online