A new legislation in Pakistan makes it a crime for a person to intentionally ridicule, bring into disrepute or defame the Armed Forces or a member of the Armed Forces. He shall be guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend upto two years, or with fine which may extend upto five hundred thousand rupees, or with both,” the bill says. This bill has to be passed by a majority in the National Assembly and Senate to become a law.
The purpose of this amendment is to prevent hatred and disrespectful behaviour against the Armed Forces,” reads the bill’s statement of reason. Amjad Ali Khan, a member of Pakistan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party introduced this Bill after the arrest of a journalist who openly criticised the government.
This Bill has received major criticism from activists and journalists in Pakistan. Pakistan Today’s editorial board wrote, “there needs to be a realization that criticism cannot be silenced by charges” and that the “statute books are already too cluttered with dead letters of the law to need the burden of any more.”
At least three journalists in Pakistan have been charged for alleged sedition in the past week, raising concerns that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is increasingly intolerant of media’s criticism. Bilal Farooqi of Express Tribune, Asad Ali Toor of Samaa TV and former AAJ news anchor Absar Alam are facing sedition charges for allegedly defaming Pakistan Army and government
Pakistan ranked 144 out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index (WPFI). Its military has been widely accused of aggressively pursuing journalists and other members of Pakistan’s civil society deemed to be working against its interests.