PETALING JAYA: Civil society organisations staged a protest today to defend the right to freedom of expression in the wake of the anti-fake news emergency ordinance that came into force last week.
A 15-strong flash mob, representing members of the Freedom of Expression Cluster, a coalition of non-governmental organisations with an interest in defending free speech, marched from Taman Tugu along Jalan Parlimen until nearly the entrance to Parliament house.
“We decided to organise today’s event to reclaim our civic space and object to the ‘fake news’ ordinance adopted by the government,” said Wathshlah Naidu, executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism.
“The vagueness and broad punitive nature of this ordinance marks the latest in the government’s attempts to stifle dissent and silence critics,” she told FMT.
The demonstration lasted about half an hour, with police arriving nearly half way through, but they only watched as social distancing was maintained and the number was kept to a manageable level.
In a statement, the coalition emphasised that any law that limits the liberties enshrined in the Federal Constitution must be enacted by all MPs and the senate before receiving royal assent.
“This Emergency Ordinance foretells the continued attempts by this government to use any means possible to undermine our fundamental rights and freedom,” the release read.
The group added that the law stifles public discussion of policy, denies accountability and creates a hostile environment for the press at a time when access to information is critical.
“We demand that the country return to the path of good governance and accountability. We demand transparency and checks and balances in powers. We demand that the government lift the suspension of Parliament.”
The cluster, comprising a number of civil society organisations such as Suara Rakyat Malaysia and the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, is co-chaired by the Centre for Independent Journalism and Article 19.