KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — The newly drawn up Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 (EO) that allows the government to prosecute anyone who spreads misinformation about Covid-19 or the Emergency is purely to uphold the rule of law, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said today.
The communications and multimedia minister gave an assurance that the government will not misuse the Ordinance, adding that investigations will be handled professionally and independently and follow the due processes of the law.
“When we presented and then gazetted the Ordinance, it was never meant to be directed at politicians or such, it was meant to uphold the rule of law.
“We want to stress that we will not misuse the Ordinance and due to this we are very careful, so when we say investigations are sped up, we do not mean we will go against the premise of existing rules and laws,” he said during a virtual press conference.
The EO No. 2 defines “fake news” as news or information that “is or are wholly or partly false relating to Covid-19 or the proclamation of emergency and anyone found guilty, under it can face a jail term of up to three years or fine up to RM100,000, or both.
Saifuddin stressed that prosecution decisions for cases under the EO No. 2 do not fall under the purview of his ministry or any other agency, but is exclusively from the Attorney General’s Chambers.
He explained that while reports of these alleged offences reach his ministry, enforcement is handled by others such as police or the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
“The Communications and Multimedia Ministry does not get involved, where I as the minister will only present the Ordinance, then we administer and ensure the processes are done properly and as required,” he said.
Saifuddin said there have been 18 investigations to date on EO No. 2; two cases have been presented in court and two cases were classified as no further action.
He added that 14 cases are still under investigation.
He said a total of 456 quick action response notices have been issued by his ministry under the Emergency.
“Some of these fake news does not reach the stage of requiring investigations, so we just make an announcement or notice to inform that such information is not real.
“The EO is utilised only if a case needs to be taken to court, which again is not according to our fancy, but if it is merited to be brought to the courts,” he said.
A tuition teacher Mohd Nazaruddin Yusoff, 50, was charged with posting fake news on Facebook at the Sessions Court in Johor Baru yesterday.
He is said to be the first person to be charged under the EO No. 2 since the Emergency Ordinance took effect in March.
Nazaruddin reportedly posted a claim that a traffic policeman died after receiving his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Separately in a second case in Kangar, Perlis, 28-year-old housewife Norjannah Rusli was fined RM5,000 by the Sessions Court there after pleading guilty to spreading fake news about Covid-19 through a social media app in Arau last April.
She was charged for publishing information with the intention to cause public fear or anxiety through a “status” she had posted on her WhatsApp messaging app account that was registered to her phone number.