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Anti-Fake News Bill: For whom?

  • What the government and its PAS supporters have done is provide another law to put people through a trying time, whether they are found guilty or not, as a deterrent to free speech.

By Azmi Sharom

Sometimes you wonder what sort of qualifications a person needs to be minister.

It was reported in a daily newspaper that the de facto Minister of Law said the opposition were intending to spread lies because they opposed the Anti-Fake News Bill.

This is the laziest and most stupid kind of argument a person can make.

This is like saying, if you oppose the death sentence for drug trafficking, then it means you are in favour of drug trafficking.

There can be many reasons to oppose a law. In the drug trafficking example; one can oppose it because one does not believe in the death penalty, or because it is no deterrent or because it only affects the poor and the desperate, not the big bosses.

The opposition to the fake news law is because it is vague and open to abuse.

What after all constitutes fake news? True, ultimately a person is judged by the court and not the government, but let me tell you this, being charged is almost a punishment by itself.

It takes up your time, your money and also places a great deal of stress and worry. You don't need to be actually jailed and fined to be punished. You can be perfectly innocent and still be punished, simply by the arduous trial process.

And here the government and its PAS supporters have done just that; provide another law to put people through a trying time, whether they are found guilty or not, as a deterrent to free speech.

And let us be brutally frank here. The record of this government for using laws that restrict free speech is littered with examples of selective prosecution. There are plenty of people who have spouted racist and incendiary things but who have escaped being charged for sedition. Why? Because they are seen to be pro-government.

And isn't it strange that when a BN Menteri Besar encourages his followers to cause damage to businesses that don't support them, nothing happens although there are provisions in the Penal Code for such things?

Let's make no mistake; this new law is here to supress dissent against the government. Nothing more, nothing less.

(Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.)

 

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