ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information Technology Aminul Haque on Wednesday expressed concern over the recent amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), and in a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, said the change has drawn widespread “condemnation and ire of media bodies and the journalistic community”.
On Sunday, President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated the ordinance to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) increasing the jail term for defaming any person or institution from three years to five years by making a change in Section 20 of the law.
Under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, which came “into force at once”, online public defamation had also been made a cognizable and a non-bailable offense.
The IT minister stated that the media bodies’ view was that the amendments were drafted without “constructive consultation with the relevant stakeholders”.
“By pushing forward with these amendments without consulting the relevant stakeholders, in this case, media practitioners, the government will stoke anger and resentment within the journalistic community,” Haque added.
The minister also said that as the media is the fourth pillar of democracy, each government “enjoys a unique relationship with the media”.
Maintaining that media bodies have announced protests and have stated that they will resist the amendments at every forum, the minister urged the premier to “pay heed to the unanimous voice of protest”.
He further urged PM Imran to launch a consultative process with the civil society and media community “at the earliest”.
Haque stated that it was only through dialogue and deliberation that media practitioners and the government could establish procedures to curtail fake news.
The federal government is increasingly coming under pressure over the recently promulgated ordinance introducing “controversial” amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), with the changes being challenged in the high courts of Islamabad and Lahore on Tuesday and the journalist community announcing a protest outside the Parliament House on March 1 against them.