Journalists reject new law passed by Punjab Assembly

LAHORE: Various journalist organizations have rejected as an attack on the press freedom the recently passed law by the Punjab Assembly wherein the so-called judicial committee of the house may penalize in a summary trial any journalist or bureaucrat for breach of a privilege of the house, any of its committee or a member.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (Rana Azeem), Punjab Union of Journalists, Lahore Press Club and Punjab Assembly Press Gallery Committee, Electronic Media Reporters Association and South Punjab Journalists Association have condemned the ‘clandestine’ passage of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

They have announced a rally outside the Governor House on Friday (today) to protest against the controversial bill, terming it against democratic norms.

The bill, ironically having support of all the government and opposition parties – PTI, PML-Q, PML-N, and PPP – passed without circulating it among the press gallery members, authorizes the speaker to form a judicial committee with powers of magistrate 1st class on a complaint by a member and the body may get arrested the journalist without warrant from the precincts of the assembly and hand down him up to six months jail term and a fine up to Rs10,000 for breach of any privilege mentioned in a schedule inserted into the Privileges Act II of 1972.

The schedule includes ‘offences’ like willfully misrepresenting any speech made by a member before the assembly or any committee, publishing any report or any debate or proceedings prohibited or expunged by the chair, publishing any reflection upon the conduct of the chair or any imputation of partiality against him, publishing any proceedings or report of any committee before these are reported to the assembly or published in the official gazette, etc.

The bill, yet to be signed by the governor to become a law, empowers a lawmaker, who is supposed to participate in a meeting convened by any government, semi-government or autonomous body, to chair that sitting.

Source: Dawn