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PN’s fake news law: DAP condemns harsher penalties & catch-all provision

Press statement by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Bagan, Lim Guan Eng in Kuala Lumpur on 12 March 2021:

DAP condemns the imposition of harsh penalties and a catch-all provision of “fake news” relating to COVID-19 or the emergency proclamation under the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 effective March 11. Granting such sweeping powers to the government effectively means that the government will decide what is fake news and who to prosecute for offences with a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

This disturbing expansion of the catch-all definition of fake news, impinges on the constitutional right to freedom of expression as well as freedom of the press and should be debated and passed in Parliament. Unfortunately, Parliament continues to be suspended even though the King had opined that the Emergency Proclamation does not preclude the convening of Parliamentary meetings.

In essence the Emergency Proclamation does not preclude Parliament from exercising its parliamentary functions, legislative powers and government oversight. There is no compulsive reason why Parliament alone cannot be open, when all business establishments and schools in Malaysia are already open. The Prime Minister stubbornly refuses to listen to the clear and unequivocal voice of the majority of MPs, from both opposition and government, that Parliament be reconvened immediately.

Further, how will this new fake news law encourage whistleblowers to expose malpractices and wrongdoings, including matters related to COVID-19 measures and the Emergency Proclamation suspending Parliament? There appears to be an inherent and irreconciliable contradiction with the Whistleblower Protection Act intended to combat corruption and other wrongdoings by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sector, to protect persons making those disclosures from detrimental action.

 
Malay Mail article screenshot on the new law.
 

This fake news law can also stifle fundamental freedoms, particularly silencing the democratic right to dissent.

 

For example, if the Prime Minister is unhappy about purportedly false allegations against him, he can file a defamation suit, which he has done so. Or the Prime Minister can still act against malicious allegations under existing laws which would be more than sufficient punishment in terms of fines or even imprisonment such as the Penal Code or Communications and Multimedia Act. There is no need to frighten the public with a new fake news law ordinance.

 

This overly wide interpretation is subject to abuse as shown by the double-standards in enforcing MCO restrictions or COVID-19 SOPs between Ministers and the ordinary rakyat.

 
 

This new fake news law could place at risk independent and impartial online news portals, offering alternative views to the mainstream government media.

Whether this new fake news law replicates the Anti-Fake News Act passed by the BN government just before general election in 2018, and which was subsequently repealed by the Pakatan Harapan administration. I am requesting an early PH Presidential Council to meet to discuss this distressing development that has further encroached on the declining democratic space in Malaysia.

Lim Guan Eng
DAP Secretary-General
MP for Bagan


Pengembangan definisi luas berita palsu yang merisaukan ini, melanggar hak perlembagaan terhadap kebebasan bersuara…

Posted by Lim Guan Eng on Friday, 12 March 2021

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