Such content would first be dragged under the definition of ‘controversy’ to enable the government to pursue the prosecution as the ruthless amendments through a Presidential Ordinance have been introduced in Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016. Uploading or producing the content criticizing those in power is now a severe offence, the non-bailable and cognizable.
Societies progress and grow through evolution and such evolution is possible with the dissents and criticism. But the Imran Khan-led government focused on evolving the laws to silence the dissents. The process of such evolution was tactfully started. In the earlier days of incumbent government, a cell was formally established in which pro-PTI keyboard warriors would counter the ‘facts-based news stories’ by adding distorted facts and making them controversial. This tactic has been very successful somehow for the government because such facts-based news stories lost public trust after the versions coated with distorted facts are added to counter the actual news. But with the passage of time, this tactic too could not cover the bad governance and incompetence of the government.
The federal government has already stepped back from introducing the laws in the name of media development after prompt reaction from journalists’ unions. Finally the draconian amendments have been introduced through an ordinance when the General Elections are ahead and reflexes of federal government and military establishment are being tested given the possibilities of any extension or new appointment.
Under the new amendments, whoever intentionally and publicly exhibits false information which harms the reputation and privacy of a person or institution including military, judiciary and government departments shall be punished with the jail term of five years along with fine penalty to one million rupees.
The prevention of Electronic Crimes (amendment) act ordinance 2022 has been promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi. The prime minister is much annoyed by the social media targeted campaigns against him. The federal government has decided to silent the dissent and critical voices. The frustration is obvious since the performance is shaggy and no big achievement is on the federal government’s credit. High inflation rate has also taken aback the confidence of cabinet members and the friends of good time became foes.
In all this chaos people can only cry and raise their voice against the flag bearers of change. Meanwhile, the law minister has produced and idea of introducing a new amended ordinance. Under the guise of fake news, law minister is ready fix those who are becoming the hurdle government’s narrative on social media and mainstream media.
In 2016, Nawaz Sharif’s led federal government had the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act. The difference is that the Act was passed by the parliament despite extension of then opposition leader Imran Khan.
Politics is a brutal business. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a hardcore political rival, is now condemning the amendments. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist not only straight away rejected the ordinance by calling it an attempt to curb media freedom but also has knocked the door of judiciary.
The law minister has attempted well to dampen the impression that amended ordinance would target freedom of media, terming it a new step to bring reforms in media. Though he believes that the law would curb the culture of fake news but he is overlooking an important aspect that such offence has become non bail-able prior to the establishment of facts that the contents of the news are fake. The ordinance will not only open a floodgate of the cases against social media activists and journalists but it will also burden the already burdened judiciary.