LAHORE: Punjab Governor Sardar Saleem Haider on Sunday pledged further consultation with all stakeholders on the Defamation Bill 2024, assuring a delegation of various journalist bodies that the bill will be signed only after the consultation.

“Though the government should have taken onboard all the stakeholders before introducing the new law, I’ll invite all parties to the Defamation Bill for developing a consensus on it before signing the bill into law,” the governor told a delegation of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) comprising different journalist organisations at Governor House.

The delegation consisted of Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors president Irshad Ahmed Arif, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists secretary and former CPNE president Kazim Khan, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors vice-president Muhammad Usman, and representatives of Pakistan Broadcasters Association, and All-Pakistan Newspapers Society.

Ahsan Iqbal claims govt has no intent to ‘suffocate media’

PPP Central Punjab general secretary Syed Hassan Murtaza, former minister Makhdoom Murtaza Mehmood, and information secretary Shahzad Saeed Cheema were also present on this occasion.

The Punjab Assembly had passed the Defamation Bill, 2024, last Monday, inviting nationwide protests by journalists.

The bill proposes a special tribunal to try the accused involved in drafting, publishing and/or airing ‘fake news’. The tribunal shall decide the case within six months and may impose a fine up to Rs3 million.

The delegation informed the governor about the concerns regarding the Defamation Bill. They said the bill was an “attempt to suppress freedom of expression”.

Responding to these concerns, Governor Haider said that mutual consultation was very important on all matters and all stakeholders would gather at Governor House within the next few days for a consultation on the controversial clauses of the bill.

Mr Murtaza told the delegation that the PPP stood with the journalist community on the issue and did not support the current bill in this situation.

The party had distanced itself from the bill after journalists began to protest against the enactment. PPP leaders claimed that its MPAs were not present in the house when the bill was passed by the Punjab Assembly.

However, the assembly record belied the claim.

‘Media suffocation’

Meanwhile, PML-N stalwart and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has claimed the government is not inclined towards suffocating the media, asserting that there are no such attempts from their side, adds APP.

Talking to a private news channel, the federal minister said that while social media platforms offered vast benefits, it also carried risks, notably in spreading misinformation that could sow chaos in society.

He said government’s aim to mitigate these risks and ensure that social media was used responsibly.

He further noted the importance of consulting stakeholders to formulate laws aimed at addressing the challenges posed by social media. He stressed that such laws must be in the interest of all to safeguard the country from the risks associated with misinformation.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2024

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