Fake news rule ‘only for short term’

Black and white: Saifuddin (left) and Takiyuddin showing the Emergency Ordinance document to the media in Putrajaya. — Bernama

PUTRAJAYA: The Emergency Ordinance to act against fake news is a short-term remedy to deal with misinformation, says the de facto law minister.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan added that along with other ordinances enacted during this period, it will cease at the latest six months after the Emergency is lifted.

He said that when the proclamation of Emergency ends and Parliament is called, ordinances will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.

“During this time, the ordinances, after being tabled, can then be annulled, ” he told a joint press conference with Multimedia and Communications Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah to explain the latest ordinance which took effect yesterday.

Beginning March 12, those who breach movement control order regulations may be fined up to RM10,000 under the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) Amendment Ordinance 2021.

Takiyuddin also said that if the ordinances are not annulled at the end of the Emergency, it only has a shelf-life of six months after it is lifted.

“Therefore, there is no question of the emergency laws being here to stay, ” he said.

He said the ordinance is clear about what is interpreted as fake news and that authorities have to prove intent on the part of those spreading such misinformation.

According to the ordinance, fake news is any news, information, data or report which is or are wholly or partly false relating to Covid-19 or the proclamation of Emergency, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.

The ordinance also states that the law applies to any person involved in the dissemination of fake news both within the country and abroad, regardless of nationality, given that the fake news in question affects Malaysia or a Malaysian citizen.

Takiyuddin also explained the fine imposed cannot exceed RM100,000 and it would be up to the discretion of the judge to determine the suitable amount.

“It is not that when you are found guilty of spreading fake news, you will be automatically slapped with a RM100,000 fine.

“This is the ceiling that can be imposed by the court and it is up to the judge, ” he said.

He said the ordinance also allows for a person affected by a publication of fake news to make an exparte application to the court for an order to remove such publication.

On certain parties likening the Ordinance to the Security Offences (Special Measures Act) and Evidence Act, Takiyuddin pointed out that the Federal Constitution states that any Ordinance created during Emergency is valid even though it contradicts the Constitution itself.

For example, he said, during the Emergency period, no by-election will be held should a seat fall vacant whereas the Constitution requires an election to be held within 60 days of the vacancy.

Meanwhile, Saifuddin said the government needed to deal with fake news effectively, especially to ensure the success of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.“For the past year, we have been fighting fake news by issuing denials and yet it continues to happen.

“We don’t want the immunisation programme to be derailed by people who disturb the process by coming out with fake news, ” he said.

The Ordinance would deal with misinformation so that such news would not cause panic or concern among the public, said Saifuddin.

“The Ordinance is imperative to ensure the people obtain correct information and to ensure that the country’s security as well as public order is maintained, ” he added.

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