Anti-Fake News Bill raises media freedom concerns

02 Apr 2018 / 23:45 H.

PETALING JAYA: An online news portal alleged that the Anti-Fake News Bill is another tool of oppression as there are already several laws that can be used to tackle fake news.
Free Malaysia Today (FMT) editor Abdar Rahman Koya said the phrase "fake news" had been popularised by Donald Trump, but we (the media) never expected the day when it will be taken so seriously by the Malaysian authorities, elevating it to a special law with a hefty fine and jail term.
"It is frightening but let's get real, one should not be totally surprised," he said.
He added that as for whether it will affect freedom of the press, "I personally do not think so".
"I have always believed that no law can take away press freedom because that's what freedom is all about. Some activists will disagree with me, but the truth is, you define your own freedom, no matter what the law says.
"That's also why we are in existence, to report freely despite the many laws that are in place. Journalists who are passionate about their job should not be worried about this new law," he added.
He said those who will be affected are media owners and those in the front line of the emerging mainstream media, especially the online portals.
Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan said Malaysia has a litany of laws which have been used to combat fake news.
"This new law is more than just another layer of control by the government; it is a death blow to the sliver of democracy that we have.
"Fake news is now whatever the government says it is. Two plus two do not make four, if the government says so. This Anti-Fake News Bill is plunging the country into an Orwellian nightmare," he said.
Lawyers for Liberty executive director and co-founder Eric Paulsen said the swapping of words from "knowingly" to "maliciously" makes little difference towards the context of the offences listed in the Bill.
"Malicious means intentionally or wilfully and without lawful excuse. The burden is still on the accused persons to explain the alleged 'fake news'," he told theSun when contacted, yesterday.
Paulsen also opined that the Bill is extremely vague as it neither defines the severity of the "fake news" required before attracting criminal culpability nor list the defence open to persons accused of publishing "fake news".
"The Anti-Fake News Bill is open-ended and raises serious questions on how the authorities such as the police, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Mutlimedia (MCMC) and the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) will decide what amounts to 'true' or 'false' news," he said.
"Recently, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari claimed that other than government verified info, any news on 1Malaysia Development Bhd is 'deemed as fake news' (for example)," he said.

thesundaily_my Sentifi Top 10 talked about stocks