Pakistan journalists vows to protest against controversial amendments

Amnesty International has accused the Pakistani government for stifling press freedom. PHOTO|UNESCO.

Journalists in Pakistan have vowed protests, including a sit-in outside parliament on March 1 against a recently promulgated ordinance introducing controversial amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).

The Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) announced a protest outside the Parliament House on March 1 against the PECA amendments, reported The Express Tribune.

RIUJ President Shakeel Ahmed has formed a management committee to organize the sit-in and streamline the movement against the ordinance. Committees have been formed to reach out to political parties, religious organizations, Supreme Court Bar Association, Rawalpindi and Islamabad bars, civil society and CBA trade unions.

A statement issued by RIUJ General Secretary Mohammad Siddique Anzar read that PFUJ President GM Jamali, on the call of General Secretary Rana Mohammad Azeem, had completely rejected the PECA amendment ordinance and decided to stage a sit-in outside parliament on March 1, reported The Express Tribune.

A RIUJ meeting noted that restrictions had been imposed on the constitutional freedom of the media and judiciary by adding Section 44(a) to PECA. Also, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of media bodies described the government’s engagement with it over PECA amendments as a “farce”.

A statement issued by the JAC, which comprises All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), PFUJ, Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), read that dialogue with the government over the legislation regarding media was being suspended “until the draconian amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) are reversed”.

“The information minister (Fawad Chaudhry) is toying with the media fraternity in the guise of engagement and keeps passing ordinances against freedom of speech while giving the impression that media fraternity is being engaged,” the statement added.

The Imran Khan government is facing heavy backlash from all quarters for amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 through the promulgation of an Ordinance.

“There is a grave trail of examples after an example where the Ministry of Information is tampering with freedom of speech, muzzling the journalists right to report, financially crippling media to influence journalism.”

The statement further read that the journalist fraternity had warned of this before and appealed to the Khan previously as well that a dangerous trend had been emerging which was creating a distance between the government and the public as well as media personnel. “All media bodies stand united to defend freedom of expression and people’s right to information.

The legal fraternity has also expressed its concerns over the promulgation of the ordinance.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has rejected the amendments to PECA through a presidential ordinance, saying that it was an attempt to impose restrictions on the freedom of expression and dissenting voices of media.

President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated the ordinance on Sunday, making online public defamation a cognizable and non-bailable offense and also increasing the jail term for defaming any person or institution from three years to five years.

Journalists have moved against the amendments in Islamabad High Court and Lahore High Court. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) filed a petition in the IHC against the PECA Ordinance 2022.

Separately, a writ petition was filed in the LHC challenging the PECA Ordinance 2022, arguing that the government’s action was a sheer violation of not only the judgments laid down by the country’s top court but also the Constitution, reported The Express Tribune.


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