The latest law on fake news regarding Covid-19 which came into effect today has been deemed regressive by a veteran journalist.
“It’s a gag order,” was Datuk Ahirudin Attan’s immediate comment when asked about the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021.
“What we actually need is a policy on fake news as a whole, not fake news on Covid-19 or football … it shouldn’t be something so specific.”
Under the new law, those found guilty of creating, publishing or disseminating fake news related to Covid-19 or the state of emergency with intent or likely to cause fear or alarm to the public may face a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or a maximum three years’ jail or both, if convicted.
“It’s lazy and political. We’ve spoken about fake news many times in the past but this new law seems to be narrow and self-serving.”
“It doesn’t serve the purpose of educating us as a nation.”
Ahirudin said it was the same with the emergency that came into effect in January.
“And the RM10,000 compound for violating the standard operating procedures (SOPs), a year after the first Movement Control Order (which came into effect on March 18, 2020). When you look at all these decisions, they seem to be a delayed reaction.”
He said the long-time proposal on setting up a media council would have easily addressed fake news.
“Something new has been implemented without the stakeholders being consulted. Even if the intention is good, if you create something that is open to abuse and error, it’s not going to serve any purpose.
“Also, who is going to decide what is fake and what isn’t? Basically, one can be hauled up on the pretext of spreading ‘fake news’.”
“It’s regressive. If only the decision-makers had cared to consult the relevant parties, we could surely come up with something more efficient and professional.”
He added it seemed like the bureaucrats had suddenly become editors overnight.
“All of us in the media, online, newspapers, we are all against fake news. But this (new law) is not dealing with fake news.”