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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was requested to direct the federal government to prepare and implement a specific code of conduct prohibiting defamation against state institutions and officials.

Six individuals from various cities on Tuesday filed a petition in the apex court under Article 184(3) of the constitution and cited the federal government, the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as respondents.

The petition prayed before the apex court to declare that unequal and disparate regulation of speech on various media (broadcast, digital and print) is discriminatory and violative of Articles 19 and 25 of the constitution.

The petitioners have contended that the freedom of expression according to Article 19 is “limited”. It furthered that there are some restrictions placed on speech under the article; hence, the government should be ordered to prepare a code of conduct to stop "the series of insulting statements" against state institutions.

The petition requested the SC to direct the incumbent government to review all existing laws regulating speech and take appropriate measures to prohibit institutional defamation and where necessary enact legislation in line with Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution.

It contended that where state institutions are maligned and defamed, not only are their functions hindered but many fundamental rights of the ordinary citizens of Pakistan guaranteed under the constitution are also adversely affected.

"It may be noted that the defamation of public servants and government functionaries or any individual in the service of Pakistan would serve to undermine public confidence in such individuals and, therefore, deter highly qualified individuals from entering into the service of Pakistan and hinder those already serving from performing their duties at the highest level," it added.

Since his ouster, Imran Khan has been criticising the state institutions particularly the army and the judiciary in public rallies. The ex-PM, while addressing a public rally in Faisalabad alleged that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari wanted to appoint the army chief of their choice because if a “strong and patriotic army chief” came, they would be questioned about their “loot”.

In August, Imran had threatened the inspector general and deputy inspector general of Islamabad and a female additional session’s court judge of the federal capital during a protest rally in Islamabad. Therefore, the Islamabad High Court has decided to frame contempt of court charges against the former PM for threatening the female judge.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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