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Journalists challenge Punjab, Pakistan defamation act in Lahore High Court

by Derek Andrews
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Journalists challenged the Punjab Defamation Regulation, 2024 the Lahore Excessive Court docket (LHC) on Saturday, branding it “unconstitutional, illegal, and in opposition to the ideas of the legislation,” in response to reports in Pakistani media. This transfer comes simply weeks after the Punjab Meeting handed the bill amid fierce opposition and protests from journalists and civil society teams.

The petition filed within the LHC, spearheaded by journalists Jaffar Ahmad Yar and Riaz Ahmad Raja by way of their legal professionals Shahbaz Akmal Jandran & Nadeem Sarwar, challenged a number of sections of the brand new legislation.

The petition criticized the invoice for being handed by the appearing governor Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan in undue haste with out satisfactory session, particularly amidst the uproar it had triggered within the civil society, with many labeling it a “draconian law” and an “authoritative move.” It additionally requested the court docket droop the operation of the ordinance till a closing choice is made on the petition.

One of the petition’s central arguments is in opposition to Section 3 of the invoice, which permits for defamation claims to be initiated with out proof, a provision they declare violates Article 10-A of the structure and the ideas of the legislation of proof. One other argument is how Section 5, titled Absolute Privilege, overrides the ideas of equality enshrined in Article 25 of the structure. Different sections of the invoice, corresponding to these granting absolute privilege to publications made beneath authorities authority, management over “faux” information, differing provisions for personal citizen and public workplace holder and establishing tribunals with substantial judicial powers, are additionally deemed unconstitutional.

The petition highlighted that the invoice’s provisions, together with hefty penalties as much as 3 million Rupees and the flexibility to dam social media accounts, threaten freedom of expression and are disproportionate and unreasonable. Moreover, it challenged the institution of a parallel judicial system beneath the brand new legislation, arguing that this undermines the independence of the judiciary.

The Punjab Meeting approved the Defamation Regulation, 2024 in Might by way of a voice vote, rejecting all amendments proposed by the opposition. The invoice, which goals to deal with defamation throughout print, digital, and social media, was met with important resistance. Members of PTI-backed Councils and journalists protested vigorously, with some even tearing aside copies of the invoice in a show of dissent.

In response to the invoice’s passage, greater than 80 civil society organizations have expressed their opposition, viewing it as a software to suppress dissent. This has been amplified by the opposition alliance led by PTI. Bolo Bhi founder Farieha Aziz said it could create a chilling impact on free speech. The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) has additionally condemned the legislation, calling it a “black legislation” and a extreme encroachment on press freedom.

Source / Picture: jurist.org

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