Saturday, September 24

CIJ ‘shocked’ by reintroduction of Anti-Fake News Act 2018

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KUCHING (Mar 12): The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is shocked by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s reintroduction of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018, which was repealed by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

In a statement last night, CIJ said fake news was not clearly defined in the law, opening the real possibilities of abuse through arbitrary arrests, investigations and punitive actions being taken against the alleged offender.

“We anticipate further surveillances and invasions of our privacy, arbitrary censorships of critical and dissenting media reports, and thus, attacks on media freedom, and disproportionate crackdowns on legitimate speech such as dissent and misinformation,” pointed out CIJ in the statement.

As such, CIJ opined that the PN government should not criminalise “fake news” under a new emergency ordinance.

It called on the government to stop using the emergency proclamation to stifle any criticism of the current administration.

“Without the necessary parliamentary checks and balances, the unfettered powers given to the current administration under the Emergency Proclamation and the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021, which comes into operation tomorrow (Mar 12), foretells the continued attempts by this government to use any means possible to undermine our fundamental rights and freedoms,” said CIJ.

The ordinance, among others, provides for a RM100,000 fine, three-year imprisonment term or both, for the publication and distribution of “fake news” relating to Covid-19 or the Emergency Proclamation.

It also gives anyone found to have published “fake news” a 24-hour notice to take down the said post or be liable to the RM100,000 fine, allows for the police (subject to a court order) to take “necessary measures” to take down “fake news”, and allows the police access to computerised data, including passwords and encryption codes, or risk a fine, jail term or both.

According to CIJ, the arbitrary use of this ordinance will go against the fundamental norms of freedom of expression and speech as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and international standards, which clearly stipulate that the public have the right to know, seek and receive, as well as to impart ideas and information of all kinds.

Given this, CIJ urged the government to immediately withdraw the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021.