To curb the increasing trends of fake news on social media in the country that results in defamation of politicians, the incumbent government has stepped forward.
President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated an ordinance on Sunday to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (Peca) as federal Law Minister Barrister Farogh warned that no one would be exempt from indulging in “fake news”.
The development comes a day after the federal cabinet gave approval for a presidential ordinance to amend the Peca, 2016. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the approval for the ordinance was sought through circulation.
Federal Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem called for rooting out the propagation of “fake news” and said that no one will be exempt from indulging in the menace under the amended laws.
Talking to the media in Karachi, Naseem said spreading fake news would be treated as a cognizable offense after the amendments to the act took effect. “It will also be a non-bailable offense with up to six months imprisonment.”
In his press conference, Naseem insisted that the amended law would help curb fake news. “Whatever happened in the past is gone, now we are moving in the right direction.”
The minister explained that the law was primarily for a public figure or a public office holder, while a complaint about disinformation or false news could be filed by the public at large.
Giving an example, he said: “Suppose, fake news is spread about a veteran film actor named Nadeem. It’s not necessary that Nadeem himself should turn up to lodge a complaint. Instead, anyone can approach a relevant authority with a complaint and the case has to be wrapped up within six months under the law.“
The minister quoted a few recent instances wherein some dignitaries were targeted with false information. He said it was regrettable that filthy language was used against former chief justice Gulzar Ahmed a few weeks ago.
The story of fake news is not a new thing considering the political context of the country. And unfortunately, the politicians themselves were also involved in this business some were very prominent.
But still, though it is too late, this development must be considered as a positive one that will at least restrict the useless and baseless news trending on social media. But the point to ponder is, this must not be used against journalists and other citizens for mere political gains.
Cabinet had given the approval for a presidential ordinance to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016.
According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the approval for the ordinance was sought through circulation.
The minister said under the amendments, defaming individuals on social media would be declared a punishable offense and courts would be obliged to give a verdict on cases registered under Peca within six months.
Chaudhry shared this earlier in a tweet as well, saying that the federal cabinet’s approval had been sought for the amendments.