Media bodies worry over Punjab’s defamation bill

JAC concerned about Centre’s proposed ‘Digital Media Authority’

​ Our Correspondents May 17, 2024
Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: EXPRESS


The Joint Action Committee (JAC) -- comprising various journalist organisations -- on Thursday expressed serious concerns over the Punjab Defamation Bill 2024 in its current form and the federal government’s proposed “Digital Media Authority”.

In statement, the JAC, which comprises of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), pointed out that media houses were not against strengthening defamation laws or regulating digital media, but the bill in its current form seemed draconian and violated fundamental right to freedom of expression.

It added that the JAC emphasised the need for a detailed and meaningful consultation with all the stakeholders to address the weaknesses of the proposed bill.

“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.”

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

In related development, the AEMEND has rejected Punjab’s defamation bill and the Centre’s proposed changes in The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca).

In its general body meeting held in Lahore, the AEMEND noted that any law passed in haste without taking the stakeholders into confidence would be tantamount to stifling freedom of expression.

During the meeting, the elections for the AEMEND’s office-bearers for the years 2024 to 2026 were also held.

According to the results, Azhar Abbas of Geo News was elected president; Tariq Mahmood of Samaa News as secretary general; Ayaz Khan of Express News as senior vice president; Muhammad Usman of Neo News as vice president; Rehan Ahmed of Hum News and Mian Tahir of 24 News as joint secretaries; and Shahab Mahmood as finance secretary.


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