Defamation law faces another legal hurdle

Punjab governor says he will review bill before signing it

RAMEEZ KHAN May 24, 2024
Parliament of Pakistan. PHOTO: File


Punjab Governor Sardar Saleem Haider on Thursday stated that he would review the Defamation Bill 2024 before reaching a decision, emphasizing that his stance will be in accordance with his party -- PPP’s -- policy.

The PPP Punjab has already taken a position against the bill, citing multiple concerns, mainly the absence of any meaningful engagement and consultation with the players and political parties concerned.

The Punjab governor clarified that he would first deliberate on the issue prior to taking any decision.

On Monday, the Punjab Assembly bulldozed the controversial Defamation Bill 2024 into law, triggering a storm of protest from the opposition, who labelled it a "draconian law" and smelled a rat, suspecting it was aimed squarely at them.

The bill extends its reach across print, electronic, and social media platforms. It paves the way for defamation cases to be brought against the dissemination of false and fabricated news.

Any news aimed at tarnishing an individual's personal life or public standing will be subject to legal repercussions under this legislation.

According to the bill, individuals making allegations against those in constitutional positions may face a compensation of Rs3 million, with the high court bench empowered to adjudicate such cases.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Sardar Saleem cited his presence in Islamabad as the reason for his inability to review the bill.

The governor maintained that the PML-N, an ally of the PPP, would have no bearing on his decision, adding that his stance will be based “purely on merit”.

Read Defamation bill bulldozed through PA amid fury

He mentioned that if deemed necessary, the bill would be sent back to the assembly for reconsideration.

Asked if his party had already taken a position against the bill, the Punjab governor said that his decision would align with his party's stance.

When asked if this meant that the bill would be sent back, the governor said it will most likely be returned to the Punjab Assembly. However, he emphasized that he would make his final decision after thoroughly reviewing it.
PPP Provincial General Secretary Hasan Murtaza clarified that while his party was not against checks and balances on media and social media, it does not approve of the manner in which the defamation bill was steamrolled through parliament without adequate deliberation.

In a conversation with The Express Tribune, Murtaza stated that all the stakeholders should have been taken on board, and that the bill should have been tabled in the assembly only after thorough discussion on the issue.
He stated that the bill would prevent individuals masquerading as journalists from blackmailing those in power and the general public.

He acknowledged that while the intent of the bill was not bad, the manner in which the process was conducted rendered the entire exercise controversial.

He stated that their party was opposed to it in principle, adding that they would take a clear public stance on the issue within the next day or two.

From journalistic bodies to political parties, to the legal community, all have joined a chorus against the controversial bill.JI censures bill

JI chief Hafiz Naeem on Thursday termed the defamation bill “anti-democracy”, saying that the rulers were trying to control the freedom of expression by force, adding that the government was formulating “anti-people laws brazenly”.

Addressing a news conference in Mansoora, the JI chief demanded the withdrawal of the defamation bill. He urged the government to review all such laws which were “anti-democracy”, including the “Pemra and Peca”.


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