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Journalists’ bodies move IHC against PECA ordinance

By News Desk-
March 03, 2022
Journalists’ bodies move IHC against PECA ordinance

ISLAMABAD: After the former Lahore High Court bar president, different journalist associations of Pakistan have also challenged the recently promulgated Pakistan Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act ordinance 2022 (PECA) in the Islamabad High Court.

The challenged law has triggered protests from media bodies and civil society who have termed it a “draconian law”. The journalist associations, including Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) and some senior journalists of the country, have filed the petition through senior lawyer Munir A Malik.

The petitioners have maintained in the plea that Sections 2 and 3 of the presidential ordinance are contradictory to Articles 4, 9, 19, 19A and 89 of the Constitution of Pakistan that gives its citizens the right to know.

"The ordinance would become a source of promoting self-censorship [...] President of Pakistan must have a valid reason to promulgate ordinances," they stated in the plea. The federal government through the Cabinet secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and Ministry of Law and Justice have been made parties in the plea that moves the high court to nullify the PECA ordinance.

After President Arif Alvi signed two ordinances making changes in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, (PECA) 2016, and the Elections Act, 2017, on February 18, the Media Joint Action Committee (JAC) issued a statement to reject the "draconian amendments."

The JAC, comprising PBA, APNS, CPNE, AEMEND and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), said that the amendments brought by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government to PECA are a "blatant move to stifle media independence, freedom of speech, and dissenting voices."

The statement said that all media bodies will "take any and all legal actions to challenge any attempt to curb media’s independence and its right to raise voice against any steps to curb freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution."

The JAC will, if needed, oppose all such moves with the "full might of its constituent bodies and individual members." The statement further added that it is "evident that the government is adamant to push through its ill-conceived and draconian agenda through various presidential ordinances". All media bodies stand united to defend freedom of expression and people’s right to information, it added.