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Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

12 March 2021

PUTRAJAYA: The enforcement of the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No.2) Ordinance 2021 is specifically aimed to tackle fake news on COVID-19 and Emergency Proclamation, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

He said the ordinance is a short-term remedy to curb the spread of fake news on the pandemic and the Proclamation of Emergency to ensure public order and safety.

“This (ordinance enforcement) is only for the emergency period…It is not going to be forever,” he said while refuting the allegation that the ordinance was politically motivated.

Saifuddin said this at a joint press conference with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan here on the ordinance which took effect today.

He said the ordinance enforcement will be carried out by the Royal Malaysia Police and Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) officers.

“The ordinance is aimed at expediting the process of enforcement, investigation and prosecution, while the court proceedings remain unchanged,” he said, adding that 270 cases of fake news on COVID-19 and 16 cases relating to the Proclamation of Emergency are currently being investigated by the police and the MCMC.

Saifuddin said legal actions were also being taken for fake news cases reported earlier and their sentences were not at all involved with the enforcement of the ordinance so as to avoid double jeopardy.

He said the MCMC has organised the “freedom of speech but not freedom to lie” campaign and the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) Quick Response Team has been making announcements almost every day to clarify suspicious news but the spread of fake news is still rampant.

“Now is the strategic time. The (National COVID-19) Immunisation Programme must succeed as it is the biggest solution to COVID-19, we cannot fail.

“We are a very reasonable, passionate and functioning government. Our interest is the people and to fight COVID-19. My plea to the rakyat, give us a chance to implement this,” he said.

At the press conference, Saifuddin also provides an illustrative example of the spread of fake news which may face legal action under the ordinance.

“For example, A wrote in his blog, claiming that Z died after receiving a COVID vaccine, then A can be charged.

“Or A offered false information on COVID-19 to B who then published it on his blog without knowing that it was false. So A and B are both in the wrong,” Saifuddin said.

The Emergency Ordinance provides a fine of not more than RM100,000 or a jail term not exceeding three years, or both, upon conviction, and in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding RM1,000 for every day during which the offence continues after conviction.

Under the ordinance, the definition of fake news includes any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false relating to COVID-19 or the Emergency Proclamation, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words.

“The ordinance is imperative to ensure that the people get authentic information from the right sources while maintaining national security and public order,” he added.

Meanwhile, Takiyuddin said the ordinance is in effect as long as the state of emergency is in force and if it is not revoked or annulled by the Parliament after the end of the emergency period, the ordinance shall cease to have effect six months from the date of emergency ends.

On the allegation that the ordinance restricts political freedom, Takiyuddin said many countries had also taken steps to curb the spread of fake news, such as the adoption of the Law on National Administration in the State of Emergency in Cambodia; Section 54 of Disaster Management Act di India; Article 207 of Criminal Code in Russia; and the Emergency Law on COVID-19 in the Philippines.

“The people who said that the government is playing the political game are the ones who are engaged in politicking.

“The focus of the government is now on three important aspects of health, economy and social,” he said.

Takiyuddin said the Emergency Management Technical Committee had not only scrutinised the contents of the ordinance but also all action plans that need to be carried out by the authorised enforcers. - Bernama


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