Pakistan: President Alvi promulgates ordinance to regulate social media

The new laws made online public defamation a cognisable and a non-bailable offence; up to five years in prison for violators.


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Agencies file
Agencies file

Published: Mon 21 Feb 2022, 8:27 AM

Pakistan on Sunday increased jail term from three to five years for defaming any person as authorities made a bid to tighten the noose on social media, according to an official statement. Changes were made in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (Peca) through an ordinance issued by President Arif Alvi, days following the arrest of a media personality Mohsin Baig for “indecent” comments against communication minister Murad Saeed.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022 was promulgated after Law Minister Barrister Farogh warned that no one would be exempt from indulging in “fake news” and it “shall come into force at once”.

The ordinance amended Section 20 of Peca, to increase the jail term for defaming any person or institution from three years to five years.

It also added that the complainant shall be the aggrieved person, his authorised representative, his guardian in case he is a minor or “a member of the public in respect of a public figure or a holder of public office”.

The new laws made online public defamation a cognisable and a non-bailable offence and also inserted a new section to wrap up the case quickly. “The trial shall be concluded expeditiously, but preferably not later than six months of taking cognizance of the case.”

It also widened the definition of “person” as mentioned in Peca to include any company, association or body of persons whether incorporated or not, institution, organisation, authority or any other body established by the government under any law or otherwise.

The new laws came at the heels of Law Minister Farogh Naseem telling the media in Karachi on Sunday that spreading fake news would be treated as a cognisable offence. “Whatever happened in the past is gone, now we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

Apparently, the new laws were introduced after the arrest of Baig on Wednesday from his house in Islamabad. He was among the panellists on the TV One program about the decision by Prime Minister Imran Khan to award the best performance certificate to ten ministers.

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