Malaysia biggest loser as new press freedom index released

SINGAPORE, April 20 (dpa): Press freedom in Malaysia took the biggest hit of any country during the past year, according to an annual ranking published by non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF, Reporters Sans Frontiers) on Tuesday.

RSF said it had pushed Malaysia down 18 places, to 119, even before the government last month imposed a "so-called "anti-fake news” decree," which enables "authorities to impose their own version of the truth."

The fake news law was promulgated after Malaysia's king, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, complied with a mid-January request by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to declare a state of emergency after new daily coronavirus case numbers surged.

Violators face penalties of up to six years in jail and fines of as much as RM500,000 (US$121,000) for spreading what authorities deem "fake news" about the coronavirus pandemic or about emergency rule.

The emergency declaration allows for rule-by-decree and is scheduled to run until August, with parliament suspended.

Opposition politicians accuse the government of using the pandemic as a fig leaf for authoritarianism. - dpa
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