February 28th, 2022
By Ahmed Saeed
The journalist community of Pakistan on Monday held demonstrations outside major press clubs of the country to protest the government’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance 2022.
The strike call was given by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) as part of their campaign against the ‘draconian law’.
A protest demonstration was held outside the press club in Lahore. Journalists, civil society activists including trade unionists gathered outside the club and termed the law an attack on the citizenry’s freedom of speech.
The biggest protest demonstration of today’s campaign was conducted outside the National Press Club in Islamabad, which later transformed into a march towards the long march. Much like their colleagues in Lahore the participants in the Islamabad rally also demanded the immediate cancellation of the ordinance.
On February the 20th, Arif Alvi, the president of Pakistan, promulgated the amendment ordinance which brought sweeping expansions to the restrictive clauses of the law.
For instance, the amendment ordinance re-defines the term ‘person’ in the law to include institutions, entities, companies, etc. This implies that in addition to natural persons now these entities will also be able to lodge complaints to protect their ‘dignity’.
Similarly, the law also increases the punishments dolled out to journalists who spread “fake news”, a vague term that journalists have demanded an accurate definition of.
The new law also surprisingly mandates that any person can file a complaint on behalf of public officials if they deem it to be defamatory. While before only those affected could lodge a complaint.
Journalists’ have vowed to continue opposing these amendments until the government folds.