Defamation law to curb Press freedom
SHEIKHUPURA – Despite protests from the oppositions, the media and the legal community, government passed the Defamation Bill 2004 that has been designed mainly to protect public figures from slander by enhanced punishment, fine and speedier trial.
‘The Defamation Bill 2004 is a black law that has been introduced, to suppress freedom of the press and the expression of public opinion, despite the fact that positive criticism is beauty of democracy and helps in progress, prosperity and betterment of the country,’ said Chairman Pakistan Journalists Council (PJC) Rai Asad Kharal while addressing a press conference held here at the local press club.
Kharal said the aim behind the amendments to the Defamation Ordinance-2002 seems as to restrict access of the press to the acts, omissions and irregularities conducted by officials, politicians and institutions in dealing with matters of public interest. He said implementations of the bill are indeed press specific. He said the words’ defamation’ and’ actionable defamation’ has not been clearly defined. He said there is a marginal victory in it for the press but a bigger defeat looms on the horizon.
The chairman said the government has claimed that the controversial clause 3 (4a) has been omitted, under which the publisher, editor, reporter and the distributor could be held liable for defamation, but the fact is that the punishments and fines have been unnecessarily enhanced in case of defamation, which manifests that all that is general in nature including the journalists. “He claimed the public would not be widely effected as the impression has been given to the people by the government, because the act would be applied only to the publishers, editors, reporters, columnists and authors.
The chairman said a ‘semi democratic government’ could only enact such laws to hush up the print and the electronic media, which, he said, is a naked assassination of journalism. He alleged the law has been framed in a hurry just to save the corruption of the ruling coalition from exposition by the press. Kharal said through this law the corrupt Mafia has been set free to plunder the country, as after the implementation of the said law no newspaper, columnist or author would take risk expose the hidden facts regarding corruption and misuse of power.
The PJC chairman urged the APNS, CPNE, FUJ and other such organizations to protest against the new law and threatened the rulers to withdraw the bill within seven days, otherwise the journalist community would stage protest demonstrations across the country.
PJC Punjab president Ilyas Gujjar, PJC District President Ghulam Rasool, president press club Sheikhupura Rana Sarwar, Ghulam Ahmad, Azeem Yazdani, Tahir Masood, Ali Abid, Abdul Hameed, Asadullah Wattoo, Sheikh Khalil, Uzair Shahid, Asmatullah, Akram Fridi, Tariq Aziz and Ch Muhammad Khan were also present on the occasion.
Source: The Nation