Pakistan: Journalists take legal action against ‘Repressive’ Defamation Law


The senior journalists on Wednesday challenged controversial Punjab Defamation Act, 2024, in the Lahore High Court (LHC) after the provincial assembly passed the law amid strong protest from the opposition members and media fraternity in May this year.

The petitioners requested the court to declare the Act “void ab initio” and of no legal effect.

The Punjab Assembly, on May 20, passed the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024 amid a strong and noisy protest by the opposition on the floor of the assembly. Meantime, the law received immense backlash from journalists and rights bodies including those based internationally. The petition has been filed by two senior journalists through their lawyer Asad Jamal. The court of Justice Muhammad Amjad Rafiq will hear the petition tomorrow (July 4). “The controversial Punjab Act is repugnant to the Defamation Ordinance 2002 which has been provided protection under Article 270AA under the 18th Amendment to the constitution,” read the petition.

“The Punjab province does not have the legislative competence to enact a law to regulate any aspect of broadcasting through various electronic and digital media including those based on technologies like telegraphs and telephones as well as wireless media and broadcasting and similar other modes of communication.”

The petitioners have challenged the Act mainly on the ground that the core subject matter of the Punjab Defamation Act 2024 is communication or speech by means of electronic and digital media is beyond the legislative competence of provinces because it falls foul of Article 70 of the Constitution read with item 7 of the Federal Legislative List.

The petitioners pleaded in their petition that the Act stood in violation of fundamental rights guaranteed in Articles 10A, 18, 19 & 19A, & 25 of the Constitution.

The petitioners also contended in the petition that the Defamation Act aims to stifle free speech and dissent as it has already had a chilling effect on the freedom of speech of journalists due to the punitive and harsh nature of the provisions of the law enacted in the name of preserving privacy and protecting members of society from the unjustified harm caused to the reputation of citizens.__Daily Times