Punishment aside, civic consciousness vital to ensuring public do not spread fake news- Lawyers

19 Jan 2021 / 08:18 H.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18: Civic consciousness, in addition to imprisonment and fines, is important towards teaching the public not to spread fake news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, said law practitioners.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan said the issue of spreading fake news could not be resolved just by using the law or punishment, adding instead that civic awareness should be inculcated in oneself.

“Authorities need to create an awareness campaign so that the public will be more careful in sharing information that they receive.

Furthermore, existing laws are sufficient to deal with the matter,” he told Bernama when contacted today.

He also reminded the public to verify whatever information they received with the authorities, such as the National Security Council (MKN) or the Ministry of Health (MOH), before believing the content or sharing them.

“I believe that if the public adopts this practice, we can tackle the problem of false information and fake news during the pandemic,” he said.

Sharing the same view is another lawyer, Shah Rizal Abdul Manan, who hopes that the public would be wiser in evaluating the content of the information received by ensuring its authenticity.

He said what was more important was the self-awareness of each individual in determining whether the information or news received was accurate or not.

He explained that cooperation between the authorities and the media was very important to fend off the spread of fake news among the community so that they would be aware that it is an offence to spread fake news.

Lawyer Muhammad Amin Abdullah, meanwhile, said the sentence provided under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code was sufficient to make the public aware that spreading of fake news could result in them being heavily fined or imprisoned.

He said that should an offender repeat the offence, the court would consider a heavier sentence.

Lawyer Razman Sahat, who shares the same view, said the court would take into consideration the background of the offender, gravity of the offence and mitigating factors when meting out punishment.

Yesterday, a poster, which went viral, showed that 5,122 new COVID-19 cases had been recorded when in actual fact only 3,339 cases were reported based on the daily press conference by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Following that, the MOH urged all irresponsible parties to stop spreading fake news from unverified sources that can cause confusion and concern among Malaysians.- Bernama

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