Dr M Probed Under Anti-Fake News Law for Plane Sabotage Claim

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Lawyers say investigation of Dr M shows dangers of anti-fake news law, while the former premier challenged the authorities to charge him with disseminating fake news.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim said a police report has been lodged with the Kuala Lumpur police in connection with GE14 since the campaign period began last Saturday, under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018.

Mazlan Lazim/Facebook

“It involves a claim by Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) that the jet which he had chartered to fly to Langkawi was sabotaged last Friday,” he said on Wednesday.

It was learnt that the police report was lodged by the Umno Grassroots Movement, whose chairman Datuk Zulkarnain Mahdar claimed that Mahathir’s allegations had caused anxiety among Malaysians over public safety levels.

Mahathir, who is Pakatan Harapan chairman, had claimed on Friday (April 25) that he had been told of a fault in the private plane he was to board and that immediate repairs could not be made.

He had voiced his suspicions that it might be an attempt to prevent him from making it to Langkawi in time to file as a candidate for election on nomination day

However, the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM) said the pilot had not made any report and CAAM investigators confirmed that there was a “routine and technical fault” of an air leakage at the nose wheel of the aircraft chartered from business jet operator Vista Jet.

The company also issued a statement confirming the CAAM findings and denying there had been any sabotage.

Mahathir had said that three of his friends who owned private jets had all told him they could not allow him the use of their planes and that one spoke of having received a warning from certain people not to lend him the jet.

“It appears as though there are people who knew about the fault to the jet, and tried to determine that there would be no jets I could borrow so I cannot fly to Langkawi,” the PPBM chairman was reported to have said.

He later travelled on another aircraft after seeking help from a friend.

Upon arriving in Langkawi, Mahathir claimed the aircraft was sabotaged to thwart his Langkawi candidacy the following day.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Bersatu has posed the question of how Mahathir’s gut feeling that his plane was tampered with can be classified as fake news, Malaysiakini reported.

“The police are missing a rudimentary point, Mahathir was merely stating his suspicion. Instead of investigating all avenues, it is labelled as per the Anti-Fake News Act. Here is the test – if Tun suspects sabotage, how can his feeling be fake?” Rafique Rashid Ali asked.

According to Rafique, the Anti-Fake News Act is being abused to silence critics.

“It is being used to clamp down on anything deemed loosely against the government of the day. I guess that is why it was rushed at the tail end of the last parliamentary seating, just in the nick of time for the election campaign,” he was quoted saying.

Another lawyer, PKR’s N Surendran said the authorities’ decision to investigate Mahathir over the complaint that his plane may have been sabotaged reveals how the Anti-Fake News Act can be abused.

He expressed incredulity at how the police could consider Mahathir’s suspicions to be in violation of the new law to counter fake news, stressing that it was the alleged sabotage that should be examined.

“It is plainly against the public interest to label a complaint on a serious matter as ‘fake news’, and then investigate the complainant himself,” he said in a statement today.

Yusof Mat Isa

“What sort of message does that send to the general public?”

He added that the effect of such an investigation would be to discourage the public from lodging complaints for fear that they may also be investigated under the same law.

Surendran drew parallels with a Danish national who became the first person to be convicted of the Anti-Fake News Act this week over a YouTube video alleging that police were slow to respond to the shooting of a Palestinian lecturer in Kuala Lumpur two weekends earlier.

He questioned if simply making a complaint, even if it was eventually disproved, should be considered fake news.

The investigation on Mahathir over the sabotage claim also violated his right to free speech, Surendran said, before concluding that the probe corroborated previous fears that the law was susceptible to abuse.

Reacting to the police investigation, Mahathir challenged the authorities to charge him with disseminating fake news.

“They can charge me in court. I have no fake news. Only truth,” he was quoted saying.

Earlier report: Apr 27, Dr M Claims His Airplane Could Have Crashed