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Pakistan

Punjab Assembly passes controversial Defamation Bill 2024

  • The bill imposes up to Rs3 million fines for spreading misinformation on social media
Published May 20, 2024 Updated May 21, 2024

The Punjab Assembly on Monday passed the controversial Defamation Bill 2024, which the government says would “stop fake news”, in a session marred by opposition ruckus.

The bill, presented by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, faced resistance from both the opposition and journalists.

All amendments suggested by the opposition were disregarded as the government bulldozed the bill late on Monday.

The members of the opposition benches tore up copies of the bill, walked out and boycotted the proceedings

Punjab Defamation Bill 2024

According to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led Punjab government, the bill deals with misinformation on social media platforms including YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, allowing defamation cases to be filed against those peddling fake news.

The defamation bill proposes fines of up to Rs3 million for spreading fake news and special tribunals to hear defamation cases, with quick verdicts expected. The bill further specifies that the high court will handle cases involving allegations against individuals holding constitutional posts.

Opposition’s Objections

Last week, the opposition raised objections to the controversial bill and requested the government to send it to the committee for further review and consultation with civil society and stakeholders.

Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Malik Ahmed Khan Bachhar urged, “Mr. Speaker, please send the bill back to the committee.” He emphasized the need for inclusive consultation on the bill.

Opposition member Rana Aftab Ahmed Khan questioned the government’s haste in presenting the bill, asking why it was being rushed through the House.

Rana Aftab Ahmed demanded that the government bring the bill to the House for discussion and debate, along with proposed amendments.

Speaker Punjab Assembly Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan responded to the opposition’s objections, stating that Information Minister Azma Zahid Bukhari would address their concerns if she were present in the House.

He assured the opposition that they could present their proposals on the defamation bill, with three days to submit amendments.

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