Major victory for Pak media as ‘fake news’ ordinance struck down

Islamabad, April 8 (IANS) In a major victory for the media fraternity and rights activists in Pakistan, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday declared the ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022′ (PECA) as “unconstitutional” and directed the federal government to probe the abuse of the law and submit a report in this regard within 30 days, The News reported.

President Arif Alvi had promulgated the ordinance in February to amend the PECA as the government made attempts to curb “fake news”.

However, the government’s move, according to experts and journalists, was aimed at silencing dissent on social media and controlling the media.

The media bodies had challenged the “draconian law” in the IHC following countrywide protests.

The journalists’ associations, including the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) and some senior scribes of the country had filed the petition through senior lawyer Munir A. Malik.

The four-page order of the IHC issued on Friday stated that free speech — protected under Article 19 — and the right to receive information under Article 19-A of the Constitution are essential for the development, progress, and prosperity of a society, adding that suppression thereof is unconstitutional and contrary to democratic values.

“The criminalisation of defamation, protection of individual reputations through arrest and imprisonment and the resultant chilling effect violates the letter of the Constitution and the invalidity thereof is beyond a reasonable doubt,” said the order authored by Chief Justice Athar Minallah, the report said. – IANS

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