KLSCAH STATEMENT (March 15, 2021 )
The government recently gazetted the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No.2) Ordinance 2021 to crack down on fake news. The regulations state that anyone who creates, publishes and spreads false news about the coronavirus and state of emergency, will face a maximum of 3 years in prison, a fine of RM100,000 or both.
KLSCAH questions the necessity of the regulations and believed that this move would – without a doubt – greatly reduce freedom of speech, and ignore the rights granted to the people by the Malaysian Constitution.
KLSCAH re-emphasises the need for government to reconvene parliament sitting. The parliament shall provide check and balance to the Cabinet, rather than the government impose new regulations on people without parliamentary debate and approval. This will set an undesirable precedent, encourage the expansion of executive power, and hinder the development of national democracy.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s (PM) Department (Parliament and Law), Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, states that these fake news regulations will be abolished within six months of lifting the state of emergency. However, this also means that if the Cabinet “advises” the King to continue the state of emergency, these regulations will continue implementing during the state of emergency. What is even more worrying is whether the regulations will continue to take effect after the state of emergency is lifted?
When giving examples of fake news, Takiyuddin said that any remarks based on the parliamentary’s loss of majority support as leading to the government propagating a state of emergency are equivalent to spreading fake news and violates existing fake news regulations. KLSCAH was appalled by this statement!
According to the Minister’s example, will all subsequent and relevant opinions differing from those in power be classified as fake news?
KLSCAH believes that these regulations should not restrict people from criticising the government or leaders. They should be implemented so that the people can freely participate in the discussion of public issues. While practising democracy, it also further strengthens dialogue with all parties in society, not only by law. The law was overused in dealing with such issues, so that the dissidents were investigated, fined, and lived in fear.
KLSCAH questioned whether the government’s approach is in line with rule of law or to stifle freedom of speech and run counter to freedom from fear.
KLSCAH believes that instead of imposing heavy penalties, the government should abolish unfair provisions and create a legal environment conducive to the establishment of the media council. At the same time, it will give the media more autonomy to officiate fake news through the media council.
Besides, KLSCAH suggests that we should start to cultivate citizens’ media literacy from an educational aspect, including analysis of the current education system and investment in media literacy, improving the people’s media literacy ability, and make judgments based on critical thinking. The authenticity of information solves the fundamental problem of people’s lack of media literacy.
THE KUALA LUMPUR AND SELANGOR CHINESE ASSEMBLY HALL (KLSCAH)