KUALA LUMPUR – February 12, 2018: Lawyers are in agreement that the proposed law against fake news must have built-in safeguards to protect freedom of speech.
According to Ravindran Nekoo, any law that curbs freedom of speech and expression must also provide sufficient room for an accused to prove that he did not intend harm.
“If the law is used as a sledgehammer to mute a person, the truth will remain untold and untruths will continue to flourish. People should be allowed the right to speak,” he said.
But in recognising the dangers of fake news, Fatihah Jamhari agreed that the law should be enacted.
“Criminalising fake news is imminent judging, not solely on the legal framework we have but more importantly the sociological framework.”
Fatihah gave an example related to her during a course she attended in Geneva on how fake news on the Catalonia separatist issue spread by online portals, had damaged Spain as a country.
“The fake news incited Catalan autonomy and this sentiment led to protests.
“Is this not dangerous if it happens in Malaysia? As we see it now, it’s already happening, with movements such as Sabah, Sarawak Keluar Malaysia (SSKM) that campaigns through online portals,” said Fatihah.
She said the proposed law should be supported in order to curb misleading information masquerading as authentic news which could pose a threat to democracy and disturbe public order.
Having said that, Fatihah insisted that this law must also not hinder freedom of speech.
“As long as the anti-fake news law is enacted within the purview of Article 10 (2) of the Federal Constitution, then it is not infringing on freedom of speech,” she said.
A committee on the proposal was formed last January 30 after an announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the need to curb fake news.