Resistance to Pakistan’s latest law—amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016—has been powerful and immediate. A day after the President signed the ordinance, journalists walked out of a meeting with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, demanding that the law be rolled back forthwith. The matter has reached the Islamabad High Court, which has restrained the Federal Investigation Agency from making any arrests under a controversial provision of the law, which deals with defamation. The new law makes online defamation a non-bailable and cognizable offence (no warrant needed for arrest) and the punishment has been raised from three to five years. Even members of the government don’t agree with the provisions of the law. The minister for IT & Telecommunication has written to the Prime Minister, seeking a review and consultations with journalists. The Attorney General says the ordinance will be “draconian” if implemented as is. And the media has been unrelenting in belting out daily editorials opposing the ordinance tooth and nail.
December 3, 2023
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