December 9, 2019

MMfD launches guidebook on media laws in Pakistan

Media Matters for Democracy has launched a media law guidebookthat aims to educate journalists on the current laws that criminalize and regulate expression. The guidebook titled “The Legal Landscape for Media” is launched as part of MMFD’s legal aid initiative Charahgar.

The guidebook consists of 12 chapters divided into three sections; criminal laws, special laws and regulatory instruments. All offenses under the Pakistan Penal Code that affect freedom of expression, including defamation, blasphemy, sedition and the Contempt of Court Act 2012 are covered under criminal laws.

The relevant sections under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 and Anti-Terrorism Act ATA 1997 are covered under the special laws. This includes cyber-terrorism, hate speech, glorification of an offence, offenses against the dignity of a person and spoofing under the PECA 2016 and hate speech under the ATA 1997.

The last section deals with the various regulatory instruments. First, under the PECA 2016, section 37 gives Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) a wide range of powers to regulate digital content. Secondly, regulatory instruments also include the binding code of conduct for broadcasters contained in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Rules, 2009 and the non-binding code of conduct issued by the Press Council of Pakistan in 2002.

Every chapter is dedicated to analyzing the effect of a relevant section of the law on journalistic work. This is done through, first, highlighting the operational and relevant words in the section and then demonstrating how it affects their work as a journalist. It is followed by practical examples of recent cases in which journalists have been incriminated under the said law.

The handy guidebook avoids using complicated legal jargons and adopts a plain language so that it is easily understandable. MMfD also aims to publish the guide in Urdu language so that it can be used by a larger part of the media fraternity.

Awareness of the legal framework that affects freedom of speech has become crucial especially in the light of the recent crackdown on expression in Pakistan, with a large number of journalists and media workers being falsely implicated under these laws.

Access the guidebook “The Legal Landscape for Media” here:

Access the Urdu version here.

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