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HomeNewsControversial defamation bill passed by Punjab assembly in Pakistan

Controversial defamation bill passed by Punjab assembly in Pakistan

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The Punjab Assembly approved the Defamation Bill, 2024, on Monday, drawing strong objections from PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) members and journalists. The bill, presented by Punjab Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, was moved to a vote without accepting any amendments proposed by the opposition.

Journalists covering the parliamentary proceedings staged a walkout, calling the bill a “curb on free media.” Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari criticized the government’s refusal to delay the vote for further consultation. He compared the new law to past controversial measures, including the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca).

The bill, reviewed by the Special Committee-1 in the absence of standing committees, establishes a special tribunal to handle cases of “fake news.” The tribunal must resolve cases within six months and can impose fines up to £8,472. Allegations against individuals holding constitutional posts will be heard by the high court. The bill also ensures legal assistance from the government for women and transgender individuals involved in defamation cases.

Opposition leader Malik Ahmed Khan Bhachhar and PTI-backed SIC members criticized the bill’s expedited passage and potential societal impact. They argued that opposition members were excluded from the vetting process and criticized the lack of proper consultation.

Following the bill’s passage, journalists demonstrated outside the assembly, threatening further protests and sit-ins. Despite the backlash, the assembly session was prorogued indefinitely after completing its agenda for the day.

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