Dr. Arif Alvi, Pakistan’s President, issued an ordinance amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 to make ‘fake news’ a cognizable and non-bailable offense.
On Saturday, the bill, written by the Prime Minister’s aide on Parliamentary Affairs, Babar Awan, was sent to the federal Cabinet for approval. President Alvi signed it into law on Sunday, following formal Cabinet approval.
Barrister Dr. Farogh Naseem, Minister for Law and Justice, stated at a press conference following a Cabinet meeting in Islamabad that the penalty for spreading ‘fake news’ has been increased from three to five years by an amendment to Section 20 of the PECA, 2016.
The ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022′ criminalizes defamation of civil and military institutions, as well as public officials, and allows complainants to seek defamation and criminal proceedings against the accused.
A “person” is now defined as any “company, association, or body of people, whether incorporated or not, institution, organization, authority, or any other body established by the government under any law or otherwise,” according to the ordinance.
The ordinance demands judges to rule on cases involving fake news and online defamation within six months.
“The trial shall be completed with speed and efficiency., but preferably not later than six months from the date of taking cognizance of the case,” it stated.
The ordinance also stated that the court must submit a monthly progress report on any pending trial to the relevant high court, along with the reasons for the court’s inability to conclude the trial expeditiously.
“If the high court finds the reasons given by the court under sub-section (2) to be reasonable … it may accept the court’s explanation and prescribe new timelines for the conclusion of a trial,” it said.