CPNE rejects contentious defamation bill

Expresses deep concerns that the bill would provide administration with unchecked authority against dissenting voices

Our Correspondent May 21, 2024


The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) has vehemently rejected the controversial Defamation Bill 2024 passed by the Punjab Assembly, denouncing it as a serious assault on press freedom and branding it a "black law".

The CPNE argued that the bill, rushed through without due consideration, not only establishes a parallel judicial system but also empowers self-styled tribunals to impose hefty fines ranging from Rs3 million to Rs30 million.

In a statement issued on Monday, the body expressed deep concerns that the bill would provide the administration with unchecked authority to suppress dissenting voices. "Under no circumstances will the CPNE accept such draconian legislation and stands ready to protest alongside other journalistic organisations," the statement read.

The CPNE highlighted that before the bill's presentation in the Punjab Assembly, Punjab's Minister for Information, Azma Bukhari, convened a meeting with journalistic organisations.

Read CPNE concerned over attacks on journalists, press freedom

During the meeting, the statement noted, the information minister and advocate general Punjab listened to the concerns of journalistic bodies.It recalled that during the meeting the demand that the bill be postponed and suspended until the following Monday was agreed upon, allowing for more meaningful consultations and the incorporation of suggestions.

The CPNE had urged the information minister that the agreed-upon bill, shaped in the light of these consultations, be implemented in lieu of the previous laws.

“All major journalistic organizations, including the CPNE, Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), united in demanding that the Punjab information minister postpone the defamation bill.

“In response to this unified call, Azma Bukhari declared that consultation with Chief Minister Punjab Maryam Nawaz was necessary before any decision on delaying the bill could be made.”

However, it lamented that shortly after this commitment was made during the meeting, the government proceeded to present and unilaterally approve the bill in the Punjab Assembly.

The CPNE accused the information minister of reneging on her promise and reiterated its staunch stance that any legislation impeding freedom of expression or press freedom would face staunch opposition.


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