Journalists Term PECA Ordinance Move To Further Stifle Media Independence

Journalists Term PECA Ordinance Move To Further Stifle Media Independence
Media Joint Action Committee (JAC), comprised of Pakistan's top media bodies, has vowed to pursue all legal avenues to challenge the 'draconian' Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022 promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi on Sunday. The media bodies have termed the ordinance an attempt to "stifle media independence, freedom of speech, and dissenting voices."

Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) issued a statement claiming that the new amendments were a "blatant move" to curb freedom of expression and people's rights to information.

Additionally, the statement said the media bodies would "take any and all legal actions to challenge any attempt to curb media’s independence and its right to raise voice against any steps to curb freedom of expression as guaranteed in the constitution."

PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi also issued a separate joint statement questioning the need for further laws protecting the integrity and dignity of the judiciary and armed forces, in addition to those already codified at present.

“It appears that the government is driven by mala fide intentions as the proposed amendments, especially without any parliamentary inputs, are designed to further shrink the space for freedom of press and expression which is already deeply compromised as evinced by various media freedom indexes,” the statement said. "It appears that the government is now making the laws more regressive in the name of dignity and security of institutions.”

On Sunday, President Arif Alvi signed the ordinance which, among other measures, increased the jail term for defamation from three to five years; broadened the scope of "a person" to include "a member of the public in respect of a public figure or a holder of public office;" and made online public defamation a cognisable and non-bailable offence.