The Centre for Independent Journalism is a non-profit organisation promoting media independence and freedom of expression in Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR – Several civil society groups staged a flash mob outside Parliament here this afternoon to protest against the emergency ordinance on fake news that took effect last week.
More than a dozen activists, who identified themselves as the “Freedom of Expression Cluster”, turned up outside the building around 11am bearing placards rejecting the newly enforced Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021.
The group, comprising the Centre for Independent Journalism and Article 19, among others, in a statement said it strongly disagrees with the ordinance’s gazettement and coming into force.
“We come to the streets today to defend our fundamental constitutional right to expression, including the right to assemble peacefully, and the right to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds. At a time of a public health crisis, this right is more important than ever.
“We want to reclaim the democratic space that is increasingly shrinking in this country, and this ordinance has pushed the exercise of fundamental liberties to yet another edge that is not acceptable.”
The ordinance, dated March 11, stipulates that any person who fails to comply is liable to a fine not exceeding RM100,000, or a maximum three years’ imprisonment, or both.
Police have been authorised to arrest any individual believed to have committed or attempted to commit an offence under the ordinance, which also oversteps the Evidence Act 1950.
The ordinance has been criticised by several quarters as a “weapon against media freedom”.
However, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has said it is not aimed at curbing press freedom or preventing any party from criticising the government.
The law was implemented to tackle fake news on Covid-19 and the state of emergency, he said.
The Freedom of Expression Cluster said any law that severely limits fundamental liberties – as enshrined in the federal constitution – must, without compromise, be enacted by all parliamentarians and the Senate, and receive royal assent before taking force.
“This emergency ordinance foretells the continued attempts by this government to use any means possible to undermine our fundamental rights and freedoms.
“We fear the potential for the executive to use this law to silent dissent or any form of discourse that might threaten the sitting government.”
The heavy-handed measures circumvent due process for a fair trial, and denies protection to whistle-blowers and those seeking to share their personal experiences, it said.
“It threatens critical enquiry on the efficacy of policies, and denies accountability.
“It creates a menacing environment for good journalism and the open exchange of critical information and assessment about matters that affect every single person in this country.
“The group also demands that the government lift the suspension of Parliament.” – The Vibes, March 14, 2021
Source: The Vibes