Hakam condemns emergency promulgation on fake news

No government should be immune from criticism, the human rights group says

Photograph: Canva

Hakam notes with grave concern the revival of anti-fake news legislation through the promulgation of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No. 2.

An anti-fake news legislation is perilous to the freedom of expression. The criminalisation of views of the citizenry would crown the government as the ultimate arbiter of truth and falsity. With such expansive powers to dictate what is true and what is false, a culture of fear would be perpetuated, thereby chilling free speech.

Furthermore, a democratic society must not ignore the value of statements reflecting divergent and competing views. These should be allowed to compete in the ‘marketplace of ideas’ to encourage free and public discourse. It is only through such discourse that the truth would prevail over falsity.

The previous Anti Fake News Act 2018 received backlash from the public, causing it to be repealed under the Pakatan Harapan administration. To now revive this law under the guise of an emergency ordinance, albeit even for a stipulated time frame and scope, thereby side-stepping parliamentary procedures, is fundamentally inconsistent with the spirit of democracy.

As to the content of the ordinance, there are multiple causes of concern. The broad definition of ‘fake news’, the severe fine imposed upon conviction, and the empowerment of the police to remove any publication containing ‘fake news’ and the reversal of cherished principles of criminal procedure and evidence is highly susceptible towards executive abuse.

Hakam also expresses grave concern over the law minister’s recent statement, which declared that any claims that the emergency was occasioned by the government’s loss of majority, would be ‘fake news’ punishable under the ordinance.

READ MORE:  Democracy - On a knife's edge

To brandish any form of such criticism or questioning as ‘fake news’ would be an egregious incursion to the freedom of speech. No government should be immune from criticism, especially one where there is widespread public disquiet and debate as to the necessity for the declaration of the emergency.

As such, Hakam demands that Parliament as a voice of the people be reconvened and allowed to carry out its role under Article 150(3) and (5) of the Federal Constitution. It can then decide on whether or not to annul any ordinances promulgated under the emergency – as well as scrutinise the draconian provisions of the ordinance, as well as its implementation.

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments