'Fake News' 2.0

The federal government has gazetted an ordinance supposedly to combat “fake news” relating to Covid-19 or the emergency proclamation but which in reality gives it sweeping powers with grave implications for press freedom.

The Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 dated March 11, which takes effect tomorrow, stated that perpetrators who spread “fake news” in writing, videos, audio recordings or in any other forms that may convey “words or ideas” will face action.

The ordinance grants the courts powers to order the removal of a publication if it is determined to be “fake news”, failing which the court may order the police or an authorised officer to do so.

The ordinance also overrides the Evidence Act 1950 and gives the police the powers to arrest, enforce, investigate and inspect.

It also grants authorities access to computerised data as well as the preservation of website traffic data. It requires the disclosure of stored traffic data if requested.

Under the seizable offences section of the ordinance, any investigation under the law does not require a warrant.

The law also applies to any person regardless of their nationality or citizenship who spreads fake news outside the country.

The punishment would be a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both and in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding RM1,000 for each day the offence continues after conviction.

It is worth noting that the gazetted ordinance bears a resemblance to the Anti-Fake News Act which was passed by the BN government just before GE14 in 2018 and which was subsequently repealed by the Pakatan Harapan administration.

Our comment

There is no greater self-admission that the truth has become dangerous than when an authoritarian regime, which is what this  ’emergency’ minority government now is, imposes an arbitrary ‘Fake News’ law, together with harsh punishments against critics.

As matters became desperate for Najib back in 2015 as the facts emerged about 1MDB, the now convicted kleptocrat enacted an almost identical law (on which this one is based) and started arresting, harassing and generally intimidating the press and ordinary social media users to shut people up as the truth closed in.

Under legislation such as this (which has not even been passed through parliament but imposed under as bogus ‘Emergency Ordinance’ whilst the PM cavorts abroad) it will be up to the coup regime to decide what is ‘Fake” to punish critics.

The problem is that no-one will believe them. This gang of usurpers and defectors may terrorise the media in Malaysia, but they should should understand that in a global news environment the facts they want silenced will emerge elsewhere. Has no one learnt anything from 1MDB and Najib’s hopeless cover-ups?

So now, as before, Sarawak Report can expect to soon receive arrest warrants and extradition requests as an angry ‘Moo’, stamps his foot over our reporting of the facts. Will it be our questioning over 5G that sets him off? Or our reporting on his dodgy settlements over 1MDB, where he has sought to cash in on hard work by others to try and restore the finances destroyed by his former boss Najib?

If anything the corruption of PN is worse and more blatant even than that of the same bunch of brigands under BN – time is shorter for them to snatch their prizes after all.

We therefore challenge Moo to yet again make an example of SR – to file his charges and then bring his ‘fake news’ cases to the UK.

All the better to shine a much needed global spotlight on his dirty antics in Malaysia.

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