PETALING JAYA: A civil society group has called on the government to stop using criminal proceedings in the bid to stop misinformation on the Covid-19 disease.
Article 19 said the government's reliance on Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act and Section 505 of the Penal Code to combat misinformation about the coronavirus was very worrying.
"These provisions are framed very broadly and open the door to arbitrary application by authorities.
"The Malaysian government appears to be relying primarily on criminal proceedings to stem the spread of misinformation during this unprecedented global crisis. Criminal measures and custodial sentences should be used only as a last resort for the most serious and dangerous forms of speech.
"The efforts of the Malaysian government to direct people to accurate sources of information are welcome. As Malaysia continues to grapple with the pandemic, more resources should be directed towards these types of initiatives.
"The government should also prioritise transparency in its own operations and move forward with plans to enact right to information legislation," said Article19's Malaysia Programme Officer Nalini Elumalai in a statement on Tuesday (March 24).
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had said on Monday (March 23) that it was working with the police to investigate five new cases against individuals accused of spreading 'fake news' about Covid-19.
The investigations are proceeding under Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA).
In total, the MCMC said it has received 43 complaints regarding people spreading false information about the virus, with 18 suspects identified so far
According to the MCMC, six individuals including a celebrity have already been charged under Section 505(b) of the penal code.
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