LAHORE: Punjab Governor Sardar Saleem Haider on Thursday raised the possibility of sending the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024, back to the assembly for further consultation and review amid uproar over its passing, Dawn.com reported.

Speaking about the matter on Geo News, the Punjab governor was questioned about the possibility of him sending the bill back to the assembly for review.

“There is definitely a possibility present that I ask the provincial government to revisit the bill and try to improve it,” he said.

Sardar Saleem said he had not seen the bill as of yet, “but from what I’ve heard and from the controversy across the country, it seems that the bill needs to be rethought”.

Journalists get JI support against ‘draconian’ defamation law

He said it would have been better if the matter was not rushed and the bill was presented after due time for a discussion with all stakeholders.

However, he said: “That bill has now passed but I still say that does not mean it is the final word and there should be discussions on it with journalist associations. All stakeholders should sit tog­ether and find some way out after cooling heads on both sides with which these matters can be resolved amicably.”

The governor said there was some merit to the bill. “If you look at the social media aspect of it […] Anyone can blame anyone on anything […] the person who is blamed, he can say whatever he wants, however, no one is willing to listen to him,” he said, adding that it would be better if the bill was handled after addressing all such concerns.

The governor said he would review the bill with his legal team. “It will be my strong wish that the bill is reviewed again,” the governor said, reiterating that all parties consider it together.

“If you need my help then I will be present there,” Haider said, calling for all stakeholders to debate the bill’s additions and subtractions.

“I am sure that the bill will be revisited and a solution will then be found through a consensus,” he said.

JI backs journalists

Denouncing the Punjab Defamation Bill as a draconian piece of legislation, the Jamaat-i-Islami has said it stands in solidarity with journalists and media bodies.

Expressing his stance during a media briefing along with a delegation of Joint Action Committee (JAC) at Mansoora on Thursday, JI emir Hafiz Naeemur Rehman minced no words in his condemnation of the bill by a government formed on the basis of a ‘rigged’ election.

“The current government lacks any semblance of legitimacy. Yet it shamelessly proceeds to endorse laws that blatantly aim at stifling freedom of speech,” he said.

Earlier, the JAC delegation, which comprises representatives from the Pa­­kistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Associa­tion of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), and Lahore Press Club met the JI emir and sought the backing of his party against the bill.

Rehman emphasised that the Punjab government must engage in dialogue with journalists and promptly revoke the recently-passed legislation. He asse­rted that resorting to coercion to suppress media freedom was unacceptable.

Ahmad Fraz Khan in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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