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Punjab defamation bill becomes law amid widespread criticism

Punjab defamation bill becomes law amid widespread criticism

 

International Desk

The provincial government in Pakistan’s Punjab state has issued a notification enacting the Punjab Defamation Bill 2024, which would allow authorities to target journalists and other individuals simply for making “defamatory” social media posts.

The notification was released following the bill’s approval by Acting Governor Malik Ahmed Khan on Monday.

The bill, signed on 7 June, was previously held up by the governor representing the Bilwal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) but has now been enforced with immediate effect across Punjab.

The new law aims to tackle the issue of misinformation on social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, enabling defamation cases to be filed against those spreading “fake news.”

The journalistic community has strongly opposed the bill, denouncing it as “non-democratic.” Arshad Ansari, the president of the Lahore Press Club, highlighted that a protest was scheduled at the Punjab Assembly.

This came after a meeting of the Joint Action Committee concerning the Defamation Bill 2024. Although the committee proposed delaying the protest to allow for a one-week postponement of the bill, this request was declined by government members.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced significant concerns about the bill.

According to the HRCP chairman, the bill’s content and language are problematic, particularly its proposal of a parallel structure for adjudicating defamation claims. “HRCP has consistently decried special parallel judicial structures because they invariably violate fundamental rights and accepted norms of judicial fairness,” the statement from HRCP noted.

Source: Independent News Pakistan (INP) via Pakistan Today

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