SCBA against defamation ordinance bill
ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on August 2 dubbed the introduction of the Defamation Ordinance (amendment) Bill 2004 in parliament as another attempt to restrict the freedom of expression and information.
“The amendment in the defamation laws is a ‘mala fide’ legislation to curb the anti-government voice,” the SCBA vice-president, Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry, said while speaking at a news conference in Islamabad on August 2.
He also announced that the joint action committee of lawyers would formulate a strategy to protect the Constitution from such laws during its meeting on August 7. The bill, which seeks to increase the imprisonment and fine against defaming any person, has already been referred to the standing committee of the National Assembly.
The proposed bill equally holds responsible the publisher, editor, reporter and distributor in case of libel by punishing severally and jointly liable for an action for defamation though imprisonment from three months to one year and fine from Rs50,000 to Rs300,000.
Ikram Chaudhry alleged that military-led government was making laws and amending the existing ones only to strengthen Musharraf’s rule in the country. Rejecting totally the amendment in the defamation case, he also asked the parliamentarians not to adopt the bill by opposing it with full force.
He alleged that the government was showing undue haste in adopting those legislations aimed at curbing the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan. He expressed the fear that the defamation law, after amendments, would be used to exploit the political opponents and those newspaper editors, publishers and reporters who would dare to highlight the follies of government.
The SCBA leader also cited many references regarding adoption of 17th amendment in the Constitution, amendment in the Political Parties Order 2002, and withdrawal of notification by the Election Commission of Pakistan, which allowed Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz to contest election without resigning as minister.
He said these laws were being introduced on behalf of President Gen Pervez Musharraf in a bid to legitimize his rule from the day he took over the control of the country.
He alleged that parliament had become a rubber stamp, as it was no more an independent institution, and is being used to endorse black laws for the protection of one man.