Opposition MPs have blasted the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021, which takes effect tomorrow, as a deplorable attempt by the Perikatan Nasional government to control the narrative.
“It is proven again that the emergency has nothing to do with Covid-19 but to extend Muhyiddin Yassin’s fragile government,” said Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad of PKR.
“It is deplorable that the backdoor government has used the emergency as a backdoor attempt to resurrect a semblance of the Fake News Act abolished by the Pakatan Harapan government,” he told Malaysiakini.
The Dewan Rakyat in October 2019 voted to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act (AFNA) which had been passed by the BN government of Najib Abdul Razak prior to GE 14.
The new ordinance is supposedly intended to combat “fake news” relating to Covid-19 or the proclamation of emergency but which in reality gives the authorities sweeping powers that could have grave implications for press freedom and confidentiality of information.
In the Federal Government Gazette dated March 11 and which will take effect tomorrow, perpetrators who spread “fake news” on the concerning matter in the forms of features, visuals, or audio recordings in any form capable of suggesting words or ideas will face the action.
Those who create, publish or distribute fake news will face a fine of up to RM100,000, a jail term of up to three years or both, according to the Federal Government Gazette.
The ordinances grant the court powers to order the removal of a publication for “fake news”, failing which the court may order the police or an authorised officer to do so.
“Now the government will decide what is real and fake news,” said DAP’s Klang MP Charles Santiago.
“This way, they will control the narrative. This development, read together with the contempt decision against Malaysiakini, will be a death blow for freedom of expression and independent thought in the country,” he said.
Charles said the government resorts to such actions when they are in a state of fear.
“Transparency is the way forward in managing a pandemic. And fake news has nothing to do with managing Covid-19 – this is political,” he said. – Malaysiakini