Former senator Farhatullah Babar has filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), challenging Section 20 of the ordinance amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah will hear the case on Monday.
In his petition, Babar contended that criminal defamation has been used to undermine political dissent and press freedom. He added that the powers granted to authorities under Section 20 are dictatorial and have no place in a democratic society.
He also noted that the court had already issued a notice to the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) on the said ordinance.
The former senator named law secretary, information technology secretary, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general as respondents in his petition.
Separately, on Saturday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif expressed hope that lawmakers from the treasury benches in parliament would vote against the PECA ordinance, which has made online “defamation” of authorities a criminal offence with harsh penalties.
Congratulating the newly elected officials of the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), the leader of the opposition said that they had taken office at a time when journalism and freedom of expression were under attack in the country.
He claimed that blood was being shed through the use of black laws despite the freedoms given in the Constitution of the country.
The opposition leader maintained that he stood with media personnel in their struggle for the protection and promotion of journalism, freedom of expression and civil liberties.
“Journalism and politics have always been together in the survival, promotion and protection of the democratic system,” he said, adding that without both journalism and politics, one's freedom could not survive.
The PML-N president reiterated that he had rejected the “black” PECA ordinance and had submitted a resolution to parliament to repeal it.
“We hope that coalition partners and members of the government will vote in favour of the resolution to repeal the PECA ordinance,” he said.
Earlier this week, PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), moved resolutions in the National Assembly, seeking to get the controversial PECA Ordinance 2022 thrown out.
The resolutions were submitted to the office of the National Assembly speaker under Rule 170(2) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, by PPP’s Agha Rafiullah and PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb.
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