Govt tables defamation bill in Punjab Assembly amid strong opposition protest

The Punjab government on Monday tabled “The Punjab Defamation Bill 2024” in the Punjab Assembly amid strong protests from the opposition and the journalist community.

The session of Punjab Assembly started after the delay of more than two hours with speaker Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan in the chair. The opposition and journalists protested against the bill which aimed at preventing the spread of false, fabricated and fictitious news through print, electronic and social media in the province.

During the session, PML-N senior leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman presented the bill in the House.

Led by Opposition Leader Malik Ahmed Khan Bhachar, the opposition created an uproar in the House, with members chanting slogans against the bill. The opposition shouted slogans such as "Black law unacceptable" and displayed placards against the bill at their seats. The opposition rejected the bill.

Amendments proposed by the opposition to the defamation bill were discussed in the House. Opposition Leader Ahmed Khan Bhachar argued in favour of his amendment, stating that the Defamation Bill 2024 is a black law and that they would not support it.

Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman opposed sending the bill back to the select committee, stating that satisfactory discussions had already taken place in the committee and there was no need for further review.

Also Read: Punjab eyes defamation law promulgation to counter spread of false, fabricated news

Journalists also strongly protested against the defamation bill, boycotted the assembly session and chanted slogans outside the Punjab Assembly.

Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari said that what happened in the House today was not a democratic process and that the bill was not a democratic one. He accused the government of betraying the journalist community and pointed out that the PML-N supported press freedom only when they were in opposition.

“The government's days are numbered, and a meeting of the Joint Action Committee will be held to announce the future course of action. The national and provincial assemblies will not function anymore,” Ansari added.

The LPC president noted that when the previous government introduced the PECA ordinance, the PML-N vehemently opposed it. He emphasised that no laws will be tolerated that infringe on press freedom.
He criticised the current federal and provincial governments for implementing these laws now.

Ansari also demanded answers from the current government about wheat imports which costs Rs300 billion to the national exchequer.

He added that protests would not be limited to Lahore but will occur throughout the country. The journalists chanted slogans against the defamation bill.

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