PPF welcomes Islamabad High Court’s decision to strike down the PECA ordinance
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) welcomes the ruling of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to strike down the draconian Pakistan Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022. This proposed amendment was a brazen move by the federal government to stifle free speech, intimidate and muzzle the media and to create red lines for them to operate within. The ruling of the IHC is a major step forward in creating a fair and free environment for the Pakistani media to work within. We welcome the ruling of the court and congratulate media bodies on their success in achieving this.
On April 8, the IHC declared that the Pakistan Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022 and its promulgation were “unconstitutional, invalid beyond reasonable doubt” and therefore struck it down.
In a written order from hearings against the ordinance, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah stated: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and it reinforces all other rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 […]
Free speech protected under Article 19 and the right to receive information under Article 19-A of the Constitution are essential for development, progress and prosperity of a society and suppression thereof is unconstitutional and contrary to the democratic values.
The criminalization of defamation, protection of individual reputations through arrest and imprisonment and the resultant chilling effect violates the letter of the Constitution and the invalidity thereof is beyond reasonable doubt.”
The IHC also struck down Section 20 of PECA, 2016 to the extent of the expression “or harms the reputation”. In February, the IHC had already prohibited the government from making arrests under this section of PECA, 2016.
On February 20, President Arif Alvi had promulgated an ordinance to amend PECA. This came a day after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the federal cabinet had granted its approval for this amendment.
The amendment included an increased jail term from three to five years to anyone “defaming any person or institution”, the definition of a person was expanded, it was made a non-bailable offense, speedy trials were urged and the court was required to submit monthly reports for pending trials.
The amendment was rejected across the board by media bodies and it had been challenged in the IHC, on which a ruling was presented today.