Fake news law is a fake law, says Surendran

Padang Serai MP N Surendran says the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 should be immediately withdrawn from Parliament.

PETALING JAYA: Padang Serai MP N Surendran has urged the government to withdraw the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, saying it is the biggest threat to Malaysia’s democracy since independence.

Surendran said the definition of fake news as anything wholly or partly false was too wide and would lead to “a paralysis of participatory democracy in our country”.

Pointing out that freedom of speech is the bedrock of democracy, Surendran, who is also a lawyer, said the public would not be able to exercise their rights with the threat of arrest and prosecution hanging over their heads.

“Healthy and open public discourse will come to an end,” he said in a statement, adding that the anti-fake news bill was arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional.

Surendran said the bill contravened the Federal Constitution, and was thus invalid and unconstitutional.

“Article 10(1)(a) guarantees freedom of speech. Article 10(2)(a) only allows restrictions to freedom of speech which are necessary for the purpose of public order.

“However, the definition of fake news in clause 3 of the bill as anything wholly or partly false, goes beyond the restriction allowed in Article 10(2)(a).

“It would include any false news, even if it is not a threat to public order. This runs afoul of Article 10(2)(a).

“In short, any law that goes beyond the ambit of the restriction to freedom of speech allowed in Article 10(2)(a) is not a valid law.

“Thus, it can be said that the anti-fake news law is itself a fake law, and repugnant to the rule of law,” he said.

Surendran added that the punishment of up to 10 years in prison or a RM500,000 fine was also excessive and disproportionate.

He said it was akin to the extreme punishments for freedom of speech-related offences usually found in one-party states such as North Korea or China.

The controversial Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat today.

The new law is to curb the spread of fake news while complementing existing legislation in a more holistic and effective way.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said said the bill was drawn up “in the interests of the people” in order “to protect them” from being misinformed and flooded with unverified news.

She said it would not affect freedom of speech.

Fake news bill proposes up to RM500,000 fine for offenders