There is no doubt that fake news is a serious menace in this day and age which needs to be addressed urgently but the question that arises now is whether the motive behind the tabling of the said Bill is genuine having regard to Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Jailani Johari’s statement recently that any news related to 1MDB which is not recognized by the authorities would be considered fake news (“1MDB news not recognised by govt is fake news, says minister”, The Malaysian Insight, 21.3.2018).
According to Jailani, since 1MDB was under investigation by the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, while investigative reports were tabled to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) made up of government and opposition representatives, any information concerning the state investment fund which is not confirmed by the said authorities will be considered fake news.
Jailani should realise that the findings of the authorities mentioned by him above cannot be taken as conclusive as same are not binding conclusions based on evidence tested in a court of law. As such, the said findings cannot be taken as conclusive evidence that certain criticisms of 1MDB which are not recognized by the said authorities are fake.
Furthermore, there have been numerous instances of severe criticisms by foreign media of 1MDB with some going as far as to suggest that the Prime Minister himself is implicated in the scandal it finds itself in.
To date, the Prime Minister has shockingly not commenced any legal action against such foreign media.
Would the proposed new Fake News Act apply to the said foreign media as well? Will the Government seek the assistance of Interpol to arrest the authors of damning articles in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and The Economist abroad to face charges here under the said new Act?
Going by the failure of the Government to take action against the said foreign media so far, it is practically certain that no action will be taken against them under the said new
Act with the result that it is likely that the purpose of the said new Act is highly suspect and merely to shut out criticism of 1MDB, or for that matter, any other sensitive matters in the run up to GE14.
The Government should avoid further negative perceptions against it by tabling the said Bill in these circumstances which will undoubtedly attract further ridicule of the already dismal record of freedom of speech in this country internationally.
Member of Parliament
Democratic Action Party