Punjab Assembly adopts defamation bill amid opposition protest

Punjab Assembly adopts defamation bill amid opposition protest

Punjab Assembly adopts defamation bill amid opposition protest

Punjab Assembly adopts defamation bill amid opposition protest

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LAHORE: Amid strong opposition protests, the Punjab Assembly passed the contentious Defamation Bill 2024 on Monday, aiming to curb the spread of fake news across print, electronic, and social media platforms.

The assembly session became chaotic when Punjab’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, presented the bill. In response, journalists boycotted the proceedings to express their dissent.

The bill targets the widespread issue of misinformation on social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It allows defamation cases to be filed against those spreading false information.

The bill includes provisions for fines up to Rs3 million and establishes special tribunals to hear defamation cases, mandating that verdicts be delivered within six months. It specifies that allegations against individuals holding constitutional posts will be heard by the high court.

Additionally, the bill ensures government-provided legal assistance for women and transgender individuals in defamation cases through an official legal team.

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Opposition Leader Ahmed Khan Bhachar criticized the bill on the Punjab Assembly floor, calling it a “black law” and stating that the opposition would not participate in passing the legislation.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious concerns about the Defamation Bill 2024. The HRCP chairman highlighted that the bill’s content and language are problematic on multiple fronts. He noted that the bill proposes a parallel judicial structure for defamation claims, which the HRCP opposes because such structures often violate fundamental rights and other universally accepted norms of judicial fairness.

 

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