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Stop The Passing of The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018!

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YES TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH, NO TO ANTI-FAKE NEWS BILL! 

We, the United Kingdom & Eire Malaysian Law Students’ Union (KPUM) are starting this petition in an initiative to prevent the passing of the proposed Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 (‘Rang Undang-undang Antiberita Tidak Benar 2018’). The Bill is currently being debated in the Dewan Rakyat and this Parliamentary session is set to end on the 5th of April 2018. 

*The full version of the Bill can be found here.

The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 (‘AFN Bill 2018’) was introduced by the Malaysian Government with an aim to prevent the dissemination of fake news which are seen to affect the public order of the country and pose a threat to the safety, economy, prosperity and well-being of the people and the country.

[Clause 4 of the AFN Bill 2018 criminalizes the creation or offer or publication (including the printing, distribution, circulation and dissemination) of fake news or publication containing fake news.

Anyone found guilty of the offence would be liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both. In the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding RM3000 may be imposed for each day during which the offence continues after conviction.]

However, we believe that the proposed bill would grant wide and discretionary powers to deal with “fake news”, which would impede our constitutional right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution:

1) The definition of fake news is vague and broad


Clause 2 defines fake news as “any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.”

Despite the heavy implications, the definition of ‘fake news’ does not explain what is considered to be ‘false’ and the question of who is to decide what constitutes as ‘fake news’ still lingers. Without a clear definition, what is ‘fake news’ is still subjective and as such, any form of information will be capable of being ‘fake news’. This leaves room for abuse and exploitation of the law to occur.

2) The Bill covers a wide range and it produces a chilling effect on freedom of speech

This Bill is unreasonably extensive as it gives the same punishment to anyone who is found to be ‘abetting’ – in other words, encourage or assist – the commission of any offence within this Bill (Clause 10). It also extends the offences to corporations and its officers (Clause 13).

What is even more alarming is the fact that the Bill carries an extra-territorial effect – the law will apply to any persons of any nationality outside of Malaysians long as the fake news affect Malaysia or any Malaysian citizen – (Clause 3). The Bill also criminalizes those who provides financial assistance to the ones committing the offence stated in the Bill (Clause 5). This would mean that even readers who happen to stumble upon publicly funded news portals may be held liable for facilitating the spread of fake news if the said portal is found guilty of the offence.

Such extensive provisions in the Bill will not only promote a culture of fear among Malaysians to speak about issues concerning the country, it will also discourage those in the international sphere to discuss Malaysian news.

3) The current existing laws are more than sufficient to curb fake news

We understand that there should be some lawful restrictions on one’s right to freedom of speech to ensure public safety, peace and harmony. However, we believe that there are already existing laws which are more than sufficient to deal with this issue. For instance, Section 124H1 of the Penal Code criminalises the dissemination of false reports and false statements which are likely to cause public alarm.

Besides, Malaysia actually possess a number of laws which are in effect to regulate speech as listed below:

a) Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (‘CMA 1998’),

b) Sedition Act 1948,

c) Printing Presses & Publications Act 1984,

d) Film Censorship Act 2002, and

e) Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

Therefore, we do not see a need to enact more legislation which will only result in further curtailment of our freedom of speech.

Based on the reasons mentioned above, we firmly believe that the Bill should not be passed as it will seriously violate our constitutional right to freedom of expression. In light of the upcoming 14th General Election, this law appears to suppress critical views from being voiced or aired. It must be noted that at this juncture, discourse should be encouraged rather than discouraged, for the sake of informed and mature voting. 

Instead of legislating against speech altogether to curb fake news, we urge the government to think of ways to promote critical thinking amongst the rakyat so as to enable ourselves to discern between what is legitimate and what is fake. Furthermore,the government should provide an independent platform for Malaysians to voice their opinions as well as discuss and criticise important issues freely so that we would be able to judge for ourselves from an unbiased point of view.

Therefore, we strongly urge you to join us in our fight in standing against the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 which will likely be set for voting in the Dewan Rakyat by 5th April 2018. We intend to pass the petition to the Attorney General's Chamber and the Prime Minister's Department (specifically, Yang Berhormat Dato' Sri Azalina binti Othman Said's department) to present our views.

Sign our petition and join our campaign now to demand for #FaktaBukanAkta!

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#FaktaBukanAkta is a campaign started by ASASI, KPUM's brand of human rights & student activism.

Read our infographics here and KPUM's official statement here.

 



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