,The anti-fake news ordinance, which was introduced without going through Parliament can overwrite existing criminal procedures and risks violating people's rights to a fair trial, said the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)."The said Emergency Ordinance gives excessive powers to the authorities and also departs from the ordinary laws of evidence which is concerning as it violates the right to a fair trial," it said in a statement today. The Emergency (Essential Powers) (No 2) Ordinance 2021, which came into force on March 12, provides a fine of up to RM100,000 or up to three years imprisonment or both, for "fake news" relating to the emergency and Covid-19.According to Section 10 of the ordinance, it overwrites the Evidence Act 1950, which has been the bedrock legislation that governs how evidence is dealt with in normal criminal cases.Instead, the ordinance provides its own definition of how to deal with evidence in court.This includes allowing evidence obtained through any means to be admissable, allowing alternative material to evidence not produced in court and accepting copies of documents as opposed to originals.Furthermore, Proham said the meaning of "fake news" was too broad and could lead to abuse."The definition of 'fake news' is not clearly spelt out and it is too broad which violates the basic human rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution," it said.Proham added that fake news can be combated through education and if necessary, dealt with under existing laws."There are sufficient provisions of the law namely, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which can be used to address misinformation and hence, there is no necessity for this new Emergency Ordinance."As such, it said the ordinance should be repealed.Proham said it was also "disturbed" that such a law was approved without Parliament and reiterated the need for it to reconvene.Parliament was suspended since the emergency was imposed on Jan 11. The emergency will expire in August.The statement was jointly issued by Proham chairperson Michael Yeoh, deputy chairperson Denison Jayasooria, secretary-general Khoo Ying Hooi and exco member Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari.Anti-fake news ordinance resurrects ‘fake news’ lawMeanwhile, Human Rights Watch implied that it was perplexed by the anti-fake news ordinance as it would resurrect the discredited idea in the repealed "fake news" law.Malaysia, under the then Pakatan Harapan government, had scrapped the Anti-Fake News Act in 2019.“The new ordinance contains much that was wrong with the old law and will stifle much-needed discussion of the pandemic and how it has been handled by the Malaysian government,” said Asia legal adviser at Human Rights Watch Linda Lakhdhir in a statement.She added that the resulting lack of clarity will chill discussion of the proclamation of emergency, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government’s handling of that pandemic, out of fear of prosecution.Lakhdhir called for the government to revoke the ordinance as it would hinder discussions on Covid-19 and the emergency proclamation among ordinary people.“Given the serious penalties involved, Malaysia’s new ordinance will make ordinary people fearful of discussing Covid-19 and emergency proclamation.“With its ill-defined terms, the ordinance is ripe for abuse.rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"The government should revoke this ill-considered ordinance and counter misinformation about Covid-19 with accurate information, not criminal prosecutions," she said.
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