The federal cabinet has approved an amendment seeking seven-year imprisonment for those who spread hateful content on social media.

Under the amendment, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been authorised to take action against such people. The final approval of the amendment will be taken by Parliament.

However, Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah decided to consult journalists and other stakeholders on the amendment. The minister said that if the amendment leads to restrictions on people’s freedom of expression, then the government will withdraw the bill

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The interior minister also stressed that if the bill is against the freedom of expression then “we won’t pass it”.

Sanaullah said people’s private lives are being affected due to social media which is a “serious matter”.

He further added that the issue is an important one, therefore, the government is hoping that the amendments will not create hurdles in the way of people’s right to freedom of expression.

Earlier this year, during Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tenure, President Arif Alvi approved an ordinance of a similar nature proposing amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, (PECA) 2016. It proposed a five-year sentence for criticising state institutions, including the Pakistan Army and judiciary on electronic media

At the time, Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared the ordinance “unconstitutional” and directed the federal government to probe abuse of the law and submit a report. The law also faced backlash from the media fraternity.