Civil society organisations and political collectives have issued a joint statement, condemning the enactment of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022.
“The Ordinance runs afoul of Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan which guarantees freedom of expression. Furthermore, the process by which the amendments have been made, arbitrarily and via Ordinance bypassing parliament, is an affront to democratic value,” said the statement.
The statement also addressed the misuse of Section 20 against “journalists, political opponents and survivors of gender-based violence”.
It further added that it is “obvious that the sole purpose of this Ordinance is to make it criminally punishable to criticise the state and its officials, against settled jurisprudence that extends protections through defamation to private persons as opposed to public figures who lesser protections.”
The statement called on citizens of Pakistan to recognise this Ordinance as an attack on their constitutional right to free expression and access to information.
It demanded that the government immediately withdraw the Ordinance and refrain from presenting it for assent once the three-month lifespan of the
Ordinance lapses. “Instead, we call upon all political parties to repeal Section 20 should be done through the parliament given that it runs afoul the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.”
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Ahsan Bhoon has announced to challenge the Ordinance.
In a joint statement, the Opposition termed PECA “fascist and dictatorship”. The statement was released after a meeting between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership.