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The CPNE rejects the contentious defamation bill

The CPNE rejects the contentious defamation bill

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) has vehemently rejected the controversial Defamation Bill 2024, recently passed by the Punjab Assembly, denouncing it as a serious assault on press freedom and branding it a “black law.” The CPNE argues that the bill, rushed through without proper consideration, establishes a parallel judicial system and empowers self-styled tribunals to impose hefty fines ranging from Rs3 million to Rs30 million.

In a statement issued on Monday, the CPNE expressed deep concerns that the bill would provide the administration with unchecked authority to suppress dissenting voices. “Under no circumstances will the CPNE accept such draconian legislation and stands ready to protest alongside other journalistic organizations,” the statement read.

The CPNE highlighted that prior to the bill’s presentation in the Punjab Assembly, Punjab’s Minister for Information, Azma Bukhari, convened a meeting with journalistic organizations. During the meeting, the information minister and advocate general Punjab listened to the concerns of journalistic bodies. The CPNE noted that there was an agreement to postpone and suspend the bill until the following Monday to allow for more meaningful consultations and the incorporation of suggestions.

Also Read: CPNE Expresses Concern Over Assaults on Journalists, Press Freedom

The CPNE had urged that the agreed-upon bill, shaped in the light of these consultations, be implemented instead of the previous laws. All major journalistic organizations, including the CPNE, Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), united in demanding that the Punjab information minister postpone the defamation bill.

In response to this unified call, Azma Bukhari declared that consultation with Chief Minister Punjab Maryam Nawaz was necessary before any decision on delaying the bill could be made. However, shortly after this commitment was made during the meeting, the government proceeded to present and unilaterally approve the bill in the Punjab Assembly.

The CPNE accused the information minister of reneging on her promise and reiterated its staunch stance that any legislation impeding freedom of expression or press freedom would face staunch opposition.