Punjab Governor Hints at Sending Defamation Bill 2024 Back to Assembly For Reconsideration

Punjab Governor Sardar Saleem Haider Khan has hinted that he may not assent to the Defamation Bill 2024, choosing instead to send it back to the provincial assembly for reconsideration.

In a statement, the governor expressed his concerns, stating that he would urge the Punjab government to review the bill. Sardar Saleem Haider Khan emphasized that the bill should not have been passed hastily. He highlighted the importance of involving all stakeholders, including the journalist community, in the legislative process.

“It would have been much better if the law were passed through consultation,” he added.

Punjab Governor Hints at Sending Defamation Bill 2024 Back to Assembly For Reconsideration

On Monday, the Punjab Assembly passed the contentious Defamation Bill 2024, which aims to curb the spread of fake news across print, electronic, and social media platforms. The bill’s passage sparked strong protests from the opposition, leading to a chaotic assembly session when Punjab’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman presented the bill. Journalists also boycotted the proceedings to register their protest.

The bill seeks to address the pervasive issue of misinformation on social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The bill allows individuals to file defamation cases against those spreading fake news and proposes a fine of up to Rs 3 million. The government will establish special tribunals to hear defamation cases, requiring them to deliver verdicts within six months. For allegations against individuals holding constitutional posts, the high court would handle the cases.

The journalist community has strongly rejected the Defamation Bill 2024, labelling it as undemocratic. During a press conference, Arshad Ansari, president of the Lahore Press Club, explained that government members organized a protest in the Punjab Assembly following a meeting of the Joint Action Committee regarding the bill. Ansari noted that the government decided to present the bill without delay, despite efforts to reach a consensus. The committee had offered to postpone the protest and requested the government members to delay the bill for a week, but this request was denied.

The Defamation Bill 2024’s primary objective is to combat the spread of misinformation.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also voiced grave concerns over the bill. The HRCP chairman described the bill’s content and language as “troubling on several counts.” One major concern is the proposal of a parallel judicial structure to handle defamation claims. The HRCP has consistently criticized such parallel judicial structures, arguing that they violate fundamental rights and universally accepted norms governing the fair functioning of the judiciary.

However, journalists, human rights organizations, and other stakeholders have raised significant concerns due to the lack of consultation and the hurried manner. They fear that if enacted without proper amendments and broader consensus, the bill could suppress free speech and silence dissent.

Governor Sardar Saleem Haider Khan’s decision to seek reconsideration of the bill reflects the ongoing debate about the balance between combating fake news and protecting freedom of expression. The governor’s call for a more inclusive legislative process underscores the need for laws that not only address pressing issues but also uphold democratic principles and protect individual rights.

As the debate continues, it remains crucial for the Punjab government and the provincial assembly to engage with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that any legislation passed is fair, just, and effective in addressing the issues at hand without infringing on fundamental freedoms.

See Also: PM Approves PECA Amendment Bill To Regulate Social Media

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Onsa Mustafa

Onsa is a Software Engineer and a tech blogger who focuses on providing the latest information regarding the innovations happening in the IT world. She likes reading, photography, travelling and exploring nature.

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