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Punjab governor says he tried to stop passage of controversial defamation bill

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A day after the controversial defamation bill became law, Punjab Governor Saleem Haider has said the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is against the legislation.

“I tried to stop the [passage] of the defamation bill as governor,” he said while speaking to the media in Dubai on Sunday.

His statement comes a day after interim Punjab Governor Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan signed the bill into law in the absence of Haider.

The Punjab Assembly, on May 20, passed the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024 amid a strong and noisy protest by the opposition as well as immense backlash from journalists and rights bodies including those based internationally.

“I did not sign the bill. However, it will become law automatically after the passing of 15 days,” the incumbent governor added.

However, according to him, legislation is required to stop the defamation of the people on social media.

Governor Haider also said that he would meet the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the media bodies to address their concerns after returning to the country.

A day earlier, the central Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the media bodies announced boycotting the coverage of government affairs including official events, such as National Assembly and provincial assembly sessions and upcoming federal and provincial budgets to protest the approval of the defamation law

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), held an emergency meeting to discuss the development and decided to record their protest against the law.

Terming the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024, against human values, the meeting announced to lead a joint struggle against the “black law” and to take effective legal action against it.

The media bodies decided to hold consultations with political parties and bar councils, and approach the United Nations and other national and international human rights organisations against the controversial law.

They said that demonstrations would be staged outside the relevant government offices in protest against the defamation law.

A day earlier, the petitions challenging the law were filed by journalist Jaffar Ahmad Yar and a citizen Raja Riaz in the Lahore High Court (LHC). In the pleas filed by the two individuals, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, the governor and the provincial government have been made respondents.

The petition stated that the defamation law is against the Constitution and law. It added that a new law cannot be made in the presence of Defamation Act.

The plea lamented that journalists were not consulted before the passing and approval of the defamation law. “Defamation law was hastily introduced to control the media,” the petition maintained, requesting the court to invalidate the “draconian” law.

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