PA speaker revokes all anti-journalist clauses

Punjab Assembly’s Privileges Act

LAHORE - Following a series of protests by the journalist bodies and several rounds of talks they held with all the stakeholders, Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Parvez Elahi on Monday revoked all the anti-journalist clauses incorporated into the Punjab Assembly’s Privileges Act, 1972 through an amendment made last week.  

The development comes after a delegation of senior journalists had a meeting with Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Parvez Elahi on July 3 to apprise him of their reservations about the controversial piece of legislation. A day before their meeting with the assembly speaker, the journalist bodies had staged a sit-in outside the Governor House to agitate the issue. After negotiations,   

The new legislation had empowered the authorities in Punjab Assembly to award punishment up to six months and fine up to 10000 rupees to the reporters for alleged breach of privilege of the Assembly members and the officers. The parliamentary reporters had no permission under the law to question the conduct or character of the assembly speaker or the Presiding chairman during the assembly proceedings. The reporters were also liable to punishment and fine if any of the assembly members took his case to the Judicial Committee alleging breach of privilege citing the alleged misreporting of his speech made in the House. Similarly, publication of expunged remarks was also declared a punishable offence.  

Journalist bodies call for repealing clause 21

According to the notification issued under the signatures of the assembly speaker, the entries in the Schedule of Privileges Act, 1972 at serial numbers 6, 7 and 10 have been omitted while in the entries at serial number 8, 9, in column 2, the words “Or publishing” have also been omitted. 

The bill was moved by PPP’s Usman Mahmood and supported by all the parliamentary parties in the Punjab Assembly. However, the two opposition parties, the PPP and the PML-N later disowned the anti-journalist clauses taking the plea that they were not provided with copies of the bill as approved by the concerned standing committee. 

“Since we did not get the copies of the bill in time, we had no time to examine all its clauses in a short span of time”, PPP’s Haider Gilani told The Nation. He said that members of the Opposition parties were unaware of the anti-journalist clauses and the legislative overreach. “We were told that the amendments to the Privileges Act were meant to strengthen and empower the Assembly’s standing committees vis-à-vis the civil bureaucracy”, he averred. He also told this scribe that as soon as he got to know about the development, the PPP legislators including Usman Mahmood (the mover of the bill) went to the Speaker’s chamber and expressed their reservations over the controversial clauses.  “PPP believes in freedom of the press and will always stand with the journalist community to defend their right of independent reporting”, he maintained.

Meanwhile, the Joint Action Committee of the Lahore Press Club and the Press Gallery Committee of the Punjab Assembly have rejected the notification issued by the Speaker omitting the disputed clauses from the Schedule.  They have called for repealing clause 21. This body of the journalists held meeting with Secretary Punjab Assembly Muhammad Khan Bhatti,They told the Assembly officials that clause 21 empowers the Speaker to revoke entries 6 to 10 in the Schedule.




it also authorises him to reintroduce the omitted clauses any time. They called for revocation of clause 21 through amendment passed by the Assembly. They pleaded that clause 21 will remain a handing sword over the journalists till it is omitted through amendment by the Assembly. 


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