Suhakam urges govt to review anti-fake news law, reconvene Parliament to ensure accountability

A general view of the Perdana Putra building which houses the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya February 25, 2020. — Bernama pic
A general view of the Perdana Putra building which houses the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya February 25, 2020. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has urged the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government today to review recently imposed anti-fake news Ordinance and utilise existing laws to address hate speech or unlawful content.

Suhakam also insisted that the government reconvene Parliament to restore checks and balances so that laws passed would not be detrimental to fundamental freedoms.

“Government should review its decision on the enforcement of the Ordinance, and instead, utilise numerous existing laws which had undergone the necessary Parliamentary legislative process, to address various forms of hate speech and/or unlawful content.

“Suhakam urges the government to reconvene Parliament as soon as possible, as stipulated by Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution, so that laws can be debated before they are passed. It is a check and balance mechanism to ensure that laws passed will not infringe on our fundamental freedoms,” it said in a statement.

Under Article 150(3), a Proclamation of Emergency and Emergency ordinances are required to be placed before both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, which can pass resolutions to annul such proclamations or ordinances.

The human rights commission added that the heavy penalties under the Ordinance including a fine up to RM100,000 or imprisonment up to three years, or both will have a chilling effect towards freedom of opinion, expression, and speech as stated in the Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution demands that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Suhakam is hopeful that the new Ordinance will not mirror Anti-Fake News Act 2018 which was repealed by the government predecessor in December 2019.

Malaysia’s previously repealed the Anti-Fake News Act, which was punishable by up to six years in jail and a fine of up to RM500,000.

Last week, a Malay Mail’s check on e-Federal Gazette confirmed that Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 states that individuals who create or publish fake news on Covid-19 or the Emergency proclamation could now face a fine of up to RM100,000 and imprisonment starting from March 12.

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