- Stricter punishment for disinformation as President signs ordinance
- HRCP and PFUJ condemn the amendments
ISLAMABAD, Feb 20,2022- President Arif Alvi has promulgated two ordinances on Sunday making changes in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, (PECA) 2016, and the Elections Act, 2017.
The changes made in the electronic crimes act have been made under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022. Under the ordinance, the definition of a “person” has been broadened to include any company, association, institution, organisation, authority, or any other. Furthermore, anyone found guilty of attacking a person’s “identity” will now be sentenced to five years instead of three years.
The ordinance also states the informant or the complainant shall be “aggrieved person, his authorised representative, or his guardian, where such person is a minor or a member of the public in respect of a public figure or a holder of public office”.
According to ordinance cases falling under PECA will be supervised by a high court and the trial court will have to conclude the case within six months.
“The court shall submit a monthly progress report of any pending trial to the concerned high court and shall give reasons for the inability of the court to expeditiously conclude the trial,” said the ordinance.
The ordinance also empowers the chief justice of every high court to nominate a judge along with other officers.
Changes in election laws
The other ordinance signed by the president makes changes in section 181 of the Election Act, 2017.
The amendments have added a new section titled 181 (A) in the law.
The new law allows a member of “parliament, provincial assembly or elected member of local government, including member holding any other office under the constitution or any other law, will be allowed to visit or address public meetings in “any area or constituency”.
HRCP and PFUJ condemn the amendments
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Pakistan Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have condemned the PICA and the Election Act amendments.
The HRCP deplored the amendment to the PECA Act and the Election Act, saying that all government and state officials are reminded that they are accountable to the citizens.
He said that elected representatives and government employees are accountable to the citizens and tolerating criticism is part of their job.
PFUJ opposed the PECA Ordinance, to which PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi responded.
He said that instead of reforming the existing law, rights were being abolished, adding that the media community and civil society were demanding removal of the black clauses of PECA 2016.
Shahzada Zulfiqar and Nasir Zaidi also demanded that all journalists, civil society and politicians protest against it.