Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has expressed the view that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) is being used to restrict freedom of expression in Pakistan. The remarks by the IHC Chief Justice came during the hearing of a petition filed by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Nasir Zaidi about the misuse of laws to target journalists. CJ Minallah took the view that the PFUJ complaint was not unfounded.
In Justice Minallah’s view, the wording of Section 6 of PECA infringes upon constitutional freedom of expression, by allowing the state to register cases against journalists doing their job. He highlighted the role of free criticism and reporting to hold public officials responsible, and called upon the Ministry of Human Rights to ensure that the PECA did not violate constitutional protections of freedom of speech. In this context, Justice Minallah drew attention particularly to articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution. He recommended that amendments be introduced to the PECA law if needed.
The Ministry of Human Rights was given one month to respond to the issues raised by the IHC Chief Justice.