What is the Punjab Defamation Bill 2024?

The Punjab Defamation Act 2024 is a legislation passed by the Punjab Assembly aimed at addressing issues related to defamation, particularly concerning false or damaging statements made through various media platforms.

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Amid objections from both opposition members and journalists, the Punjab Assembly approved the Defamation Bill 2024, introduced by Punjab’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, on May 20.

“Subject to the provisions of this Act and any other law for the time being in force, defamation shall be a civil wrong and the person defamed may initiate an action under this Act without proof of actual damage or loss and, where defamation is proved, general damages shall be presumed to have been suffered by the person defamed,” reads the bill.

The legislation will extend to fabricated information disseminated via YouTube and social media channels. It mandates the establishment of tribunals to adjudicate defamation disputes, with a requirement to render decisions within a six-month timeframe.

As per the administration led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab, the legislation addresses the dissemination of false information across various social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It enables the initiation of defamation lawsuits against individuals spreading misleading content.

Additionally, the bill suggests penalties of up to Rs3 million for the propagation of false news and the establishment of dedicated tribunals to adjudicate defamation claims, with prompt judgments anticipated.

Furthermore, it designates the high court to oversee cases concerning accusations against individuals occupying constitutional positions.

Ahmed Khan Bhachar, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, criticized the Defamation Bill 2024, labeling it a “black law.”

His remarks followed the rejection of all proposed amendments by the opposition benches during the Assembly session. In protest, lawmakers from the opposition tore copies of the bill, creating a tumultuous scene.

Meanwhile, journalist leaders expressed disillusionment, accusing the government of betrayal after negotiating the bill. They felt undermined, considering the alleged breach of trust following the negotiations.

This comprehensive Act significantly impacts writers, analysts, editors, journalists, vloggers, and both traditional and social media practitioners.

While the Act introduces several significant provisions, it also has both strengths and weaknesses when compared to the Defamation Ordinance 2002 and international standards.

The Act broadens the definition of “broadcaster” far beyond what the Defamation Ordinance 2002 includes.

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The 2002 Ordinance provides a broad definition of broadcasting that covers various communication forms but lacks specificity regarding modern platforms like social media, leading to potential ambiguity.

In contrast, the Punjab Defamation Act 2024 offers a more modern and precise definition, explicitly including social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), WhatsApp, and TikTok. This update reflects current communication methods and provides greater clarity.

Internationally Acceptable Definition of Journalist:
– A journalist gathers, assesses, creates, and presents news and information to the public.
– Definitions vary by cultural, legal, and professional contexts.
– Journalists serve as watchdogs, informing the public and upholding accuracy, fairness, and objectivity.

Definition in Defamation Ordinance:
– The Defamation Ordinance lacks a definition of a journalist.

Punjab Defamation Act 2024 Definition of Journalist:
– Provides a specific and legally binding definition.
– Includes individuals engaged by newspapers, magazines, news websites, or social media.
– Encompasses freelancers with a substantial track record.
– Reflects the evolving role of social media in news dissemination.

Comparison of Journalist Definitions:
– International definition focuses on core journalistic functions and principles.
– Punjab Act offers a legal framework specific to Punjab.
– International definition provides a broader understanding across various contexts.

Definitions of Editor in Defamation Ordinance and Punjab Defamation Act 2024:
– Both emphasize an editor’s responsibility for content and decisions to publish or circulate, including social media platforms.

Internationally Accepted Definition of Editor:
– Broader, encompassing content decisions, content quality, team management, and alignment with editorial standards.
– Highlights multifaceted nature of editorial responsibilities across traditional and digital media.

Comparison of Editor Definitions:
– Punjab Act and Ordinance focus on specific legal and digital media contexts.
– International definition offers a comprehensive view of an editor’s role.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the defamation bill 2024?The Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024, envisages legal protection from false, misleading, and defamatory claims made via print, electronic, and social media against public officials and private citizens.
What is the punishment for defamation of character in Pakistan?Section 500 of the Pakistan Penal Code deals with the Punishment for Defamation “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both”.
Where to file a defamation case in Pakistan? District Court- A civil suit for defamation may be initiated by way of instituting a suit before the District Court having territorial jurisdiction. All matters in the District Court are heard before a judge and there are no jury trials.
What is the compensation for defamation in Pakistan? (dd) “Originator” refers to the person who initiates a defamatory statement or any other defamatory action. Compensatory damages, classified as general damages, shall be set at three hundred thousand rupees. This is a substitution of section 13, Ordinance LVI of 2002.
How to sue someone in Pakistan? 7 Steps in a Civil Suit ProcessStep 1: Prepare the Plaint
– The first step to formally initiate a civil suit is to draft and prepare the plaint, outlining the facts and legal basis of the case.

Step 2: Determine the Proper Venue for the Case
– Identify the appropriate court with jurisdiction over the matter to ensure the case is filed in the correct venue.

Step 3: File the Plaint
– Submit the plaint to the court, officially filing the case and paying any required court fees.

Step 4: Serve the Defendant
– Provide the defendant with a copy of the plaint and a summons to appear in court, ensuring they are aware of the lawsuit.

Step 5: The Defendant’s Response
– The defendant must file a written response or answer to the plaint, addressing the allegations made against them.

Step 6: Going to Trial
– Both parties present their evidence and arguments in court during the trial phase, which may involve witness testimonies and cross-examinations.

Step 7: Judgment
– After considering all evidence and arguments, the judge delivers a judgment, resolving the dispute and determining any remedies or penalties.

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