Four More Media Bodies Challenge Controversial PECA Ordinance In Court

Four More Media Bodies Challenge Controversial PECA Ordinance In Court
Another petition was filed by four electronic and print media organisations challenging amendments made to the Prevention of Elect­ronic Crimes Act (PECA) in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the latest in a series of complaints against the ordinance.

The Pakistan Broadcasters Association, All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors, and the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors petitioned for the court to declare the presidential ordinance as unconstitutional, as it infringes upon free speech, they argued.

The petition stated that the amendments made in sections two and three of PECA would stifle freedom of expression because “the fear of being dragged into criminal proceedings by the investigating agency on the complaint of any member of the public for alleged defamation of public officials are bound to chill free speech and fair comment”.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah clubbed together all of the petitions against the PECA amendments, including one filed by the former president of Lahore High Court (LHC) Bar Maqsood Butt, while noting that other laws against contempt already existed.

Previously, the chief justice had barred the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from acting on the ordinance under review. He also dismissed petitions from the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP), advising the political parties to take up the matter in the Parliament instead.

On Thursday, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry indicated that the government was 'ready to withdraw' the controversial ordinance, which has elicited contempt from civil society, media groups and the legal fraternity.