Defamation a criminal offence
The government of Pakistan on July 29, introduced proposed amendments in the defamation bill in National Assembly under which defamation had been declared a “criminal offence”.
Seeking amendments in the Defamation Ordinance 2002, the bill proposes to increase the imprisonment from three months to one year and the fine from Rs 50,000 to Rs 300,000 (From US$ 900 to US$ 4,500). In case of libel, the publisher, editor, reporter and the distributor shall be severally and jointly liable to an action for defamation under the ordinance.
The amendments propose that the district and sessions judge shall have the authority to try the defamation cases and decide them within 90 days. It added that the high court shall decide the appeal against the sessions court judgment within 60 days. The bill would amend the Defamation Ordinance 2002 and the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) sections 499 to 502.
Giving reasons for the proposed amendments, the government statement said, “There is a general tendency to scandalize and defame others, including public figures, whereby perceptible injury to their reputation is caused, either for ulterior motive or through irresponsible conduct.”
The proposed amendments would dramatically enhance punitive provisions of the Defamation Ordinance, which had itself been condemned by media organisations as a black law against press freedom in Pakistan.The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and All Pakistan Newspapers Employees (APNS) called for a dialogue with the government to amend the ordinance. They demanded this bill should be amended keeping in view that press freedom in Pakistan is not violated in any manner.