PETALING JAYA: The government’s assurance that the Anti-Fake News Act will be reviewed brings no comfort to Lawyers for Liberty which insists that it needs to be repealed altogether.
The human rights group’s executive director, Eric Paulsen, said the legislation, controversially passed by Parliament in April, could not be saved.
He said it was too broad and vaguely worded, making it easily prone to abuse to target the opposition.
“Any attempt to amend the act can only lead to further abuse as we have seen in the authorities targeting Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for example,” he told FMT.
Former prime minister Mahathir is being investigated under the act after he claimed that a private plane he had chartered to fly from the Subang airport to Langkawi on April 27, the day before nomination for the 14th general election (GE14), had been sabotaged.
The 92-year-old had managed to get another plane to take him to the island resort for the nomination as PH’s parliamentary candidate for Langkawi.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman had earlier said the government would look into reviewing the legislation as there were many false allegations on social media during the campaign period.
“I have said in Parliament, when tabling the bill, that such false claims will be made and it is happening now,” she had said, adding that the biggest problem came from fake accounts.
Azalina is defending her Pengerang parliamentary seat for BN in GE14.
Paulsen said Azalina’s concern on fake accounts was already being addressed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
“I fail to see what is not already being covered by existing laws and practices,” he said.
He also claimed that no action was taken against those making allegedly fake statements that seemingly favoured Barisan Nasional (BN).
He cited a reported claim by Prime Minister and BN chairman Najib Razak that PH was ferrying people in buses to attend its ceramah, and an article in a portal quoting an expert that the number of viewers on live broadcasts via Facebook could be manipulated.
“But we will not see any action, as clearly this law will be used selectively to target dissidents,” Paulsen said.