ISLAMABAD: A number of bodies representing electronic and print media organisations filed petitions with the Islamabad High Court challenging the amen­dments in the Prevention of Elect­ronic Crimes Act (Peca) on Wednesday.

The Pakistan Broadcasters Association, All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors, and the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors requested the court to declare as unconstitutional the presidential ordinance issued last month to toughen the anti-media law.

The petition stated that the amendments in sections 2 and 3 of Peca would kill freedom of expression because “the fear of being dragged into criminal proceedings by the investigating agency on the complaint of any member of the public for alleged defamation of public officials are bound to chill free speech and fair comment”.

The Islamabad High Court, after hearing a petition filed by a faction of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), had on Feb 23 stopped the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from making any arrest under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca).

Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC recalled that the FIA had already submitted standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding the mode of exercising powers in relation to complaints under section 20.

According to the SOPs, a person is not to be arrested without giving the individual a reasonable opportunity to explain his point of view.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2022

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