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Get PECB 2016 re-drafted with defences for public interest and investigation journalism.

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Started By: Media Matters for Democracy and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)

Draconian law PECB2016 stands to jeopardise journalistic endeavours 

Prevention of Electronic Crime Bill 2016 has been passed in a National Assembly session boasting just 9% of the elected parliamentarians. By rushing through this regressive and undemocratic Bill, the PML-N led government has only re-enforced the fears that the government is trying to legitimise unconstitutional restrictions on expression, information and journalism. 

Multiple sections of this Bill have serious implications for journalistic endeavours. The definition of ‘critical infrastructure’ now includes ‘any private or Government infrastructure so designated by the Government’, creates the space (under sections 6, 7 and 10) for the government to declare anything critical of the government as cyber crime and impose harsher penalties and punishments on those who might access relevant data for journalistic purposes. Section 34 poses a threat to freedom of expression and information values by giving extensive censorship and content management powers to PTA. No protections or legal defense have been created for whistle-blowers, investigative journalists and their sources acting in larger public interest. 

In the absence of the right of journalists to access data and whistle- blowers’ protection laws, this Bill leaves potential whistle -blowers and sources of information vulnerable and its users open to abuse. The subjective nature of this bill will allow the government and its officials to crack down against journalists who seek, obtain and distribute officially suppressed information that can help make the government accountable. It should be noted that while the government claims to have consulted some civil society groups, journalists’ bodies were never contacted or consulted during the drafting process.  

We call upon the senators from opposition parties to stand by their expressed commitments to oppose this Bill in the Senate of Pakistan and ensure that it is not allowed to become a law, at least it its current state. We urge the senators to review and redraft the Bill in the Senate Sub-Committee, to ensure that the violations of journalistic rights inherent in its current form are removed.

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