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Media bodies term proposed Punjab Defamation Bill 2024 ‘draconian’

JAC demands Punjab and federal governments to hold extensive discussions with media organisations

A representational image. — AFP/File

Stressing the need for a detailed and purposeful consultation with all stakeholders, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the media bodies on Thursday expressed serious concern over the proposed Punjab Defamation Bill 2024 in its current form and the proposed federal government “Digital Media Authority”.

The statement came as Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz’s government tabled the new anti-defamatory legislation in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday — a move which has faced some resistance from various sections of the society including journalists.

In addition to this, the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government is also mulling amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016 as the premier has formed a committee comprising representatives of allied parties to review amendments to Pakistan’s electronic crimes law, according to media reports.

In the joint statement, the JAC of the media bodies said: “The media bodies are not against strengthening the defamation laws or regulating digital media after strengthening defamation laws, but the bill appears draconian in its current form and threatens the fundamental right to freedom of expression.”

It further said that the JAC believes that any legislation in this regard must strike a delicate balance between protecting individual rights and upholding the principles of freedom of expression.

The body demanded the Punjab and the federal governments to hold extensive discussions with media organisations, and other stakeholders to thoroughly examine the implications of the proposed legislation on freedom of expression and postpone the passing of the bill in the assembly until then.

The JAC further said that it remains committed to engaging constructively with the government to ensure that the defamation legislation and code for digital media if enacted is fair, just, and in line with democratic principles.

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