Using its emergency powers, Putrajaya is imposing a fine of up to RM100,000 and/or a maximum jail term of three years on those guilty of spreading fake news on COVID-19 or the emergency proclamation. This takes effect today, 12 March.
Emergency (Essential Powers) (No.2) Ordinance 2021 defines “fake news” as “any news, information, data and reports, 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 in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.”
If that doesn’t sound quite clear to you, you’re not alone. Bar Council president Salim Bashir raised concern over the new law’s “imprecise definition” of fake news and further pointed to the worrisome nature of some of its provisions, Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported.
Section 15, he told FMT, “means that if an authorised officer comes to your house and simply takes your documents to be used as evidence, you cannot question the manner in which they obtain it, and whether it was done illegally.”
The ordinance threatens a fine of RM500,000 and/or a maximum jail term of six years for directly or indirectly funding the spread of fake news. It also shields the government and authorised officers from lawsuits in regards to their enforcement of this law.
Since the new law was created via emergency powers, it doesn’t require parliamentary approval. Opposition parties and even some government MPs have been calling for Parliament to sit since the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s declaration that the legislative body may convene during the emergency.