Pakistan Press Foundation expresses alarm at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s attack on Pakistan’s media and justification of draconian amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016. -
Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan Press Foundation expresses alarm at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s attack on Pakistan’s media and justification of draconian amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016.

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is alarmed by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s labeling Pakistani media and journalists in Pakistan as “mafias” and “blackmailers”. We urge the prime minister to reconsider the use of such rhetoric inciting hate against the media and undermining their credibility without any basis.

The prime minister claimed that the draconian amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) had nothing to do with freedom of the press. Journalists, media institutions, civil society and other stakeholders have unanimously rejected the amendments as tools to suppress free speech and addmore restrictions on Pakistani media.

On February 20, President Arif Alvi had promulgated an ordinance to amend PECA. The amendments approved by his cabinet and promulgated has made the already draconian PECA law even more restrictive and oppressive towards free speech.

Among a list of more intensive action already permitted under PECA, the recent amendments increased the jail term for defaming “any person on institution” from three to five years and main “public defamation” a non-bailable offense. The amendment has also required trials to be completed speedily, preferably within six months.

The prime minister said that the law was being brought for a reason which was the spread of filth on social media. The premier said that of the 94,000 cases with the Federal Investigation Agency regarding inappropriate pictures, filth, fake news etc being shared, only 38 cases had received a verdict.

In his nationally televised address, Prime Minister Khan said that in the name of the freedom of the press in Pakistan there were “mafias sitting here and blackmailing [us]”. Appearing to accuse the media, he said that their agendas are “something else”, adding that there are also journalists who are being paid to spread this filth and blackmail them.

These are dangerous assertions by the premier who chose to label the media as mafias and blackmailers. If the prime minister has evidence of such action by a member of the media fraternity he has the right to pursue legal actions against said individual. However, to make such remarks in an effort to justify a draconian piece of legislation is alarming and regrettable.

He also added that “good journalists” would be happy that “fake news” would come to an end. Instead of making such assumptions and adding further classifications of good and bad journalists, the prime minister should instead take into consideration the concerns of the media community regarding the PECA amendment and embrace freedom of expression as guaranteed under articles 19 of Pakistan’s constitution.


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