Replace the Azalina Committee on Fake News with a bipartisan committee on fake news to draft laws and mechanism to tackle fake news without giving more powers to authorities to harass and persecute dissent which is no different from “using democracy to destroy democracy”
The statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that the creators and propagators of fake news will be punished for the wrongdoings is a new fable in the stable of UMNO/Barisan Nasional political propaganda with no credibility whatsoever.
This is why human rights groups and NGOs in Malaysia fear that free speech would be curtailed by the proposed legislation to curb fake news.
What is the answer of the Azalina Committee on Fake News to consider legislation and mechanism to tackle fake news to the human rights concerns by human rights organisations like Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Article 19 and Lawyers for Liberty?
No one would disagree that fake news designed to incite hatred and poison the minds of the people, which affect both the government and opposition, must be dealt with swiftly and severely, but what credibility does the Azalina Committee on Fake News, comprising representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Police and the Ministry of Multi-media and Communications, command when Opposition parties, human rights groups and NGOs believe that the proposed new laws and mechanism against fake news would only arm the UMNO/BN government with new powers and instrument to harass and persecute dissent in the country?
For the past year, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia has a special fact-checking website to combat fake news called sebenarnya.my.
Can the Minister for Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Salleh Syed Keruak give the country a report of the achievements of this special government website to combat fake news, in particular to let Malaysians know how many and what were the fake news against Opposition and NGO leaders this government website had debunked?
The UMNO/BN government does not have a record of fair, non-discriminatory and even-handed use of laws and powers. In fact, one reason why there must be a change of Federal government in Putrajaya, the first time in 61 years, is because national institutions in the country ike the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the civil service have lost their independence, impartiality, efficiency and professionalism and dragooned to perform the dictates and ‘dirty work” of UMNO even when this is against national interests, giving rise to selective prosecution and investigations and blind-eyes to blatant and flagrant crimes and corruption like the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB money-laundering scandal.
It is an incontrovertible fact that in Malaysia today, the biggest manufacturer of fake news and false information is none other than UMNO/Barisan Nasional government, led by none other than the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, himself.
I am one of the biggest victims of Najib and UMNO/BN manufacture of fake news – and even the UMNO General Assembly had been used as platforms for Najib to disseminate such fake news, as for instance, Najib’s trio of fake news at the UMNO General Assembly in the past two years, viz: that
- That the 14th General Election will be a contest between UMNO and DAP;
- That the DAP is anti-Malay or anti-Islam;
- The “nightmares” Malay will suffer if UMNO loses power in the next general elections.
Will Datuk Najib appear before the Azalina Fake News Committee to publicly apologise for the manufacture and dissemination of the trio of fake news against the DAP in the recent UMNO General Assemblies?
In 2001, my 15-year-old grandson was the victim of malicious “fake news”, that he had sexually molested a fellow girl student in his school, and photographs and identity of the girl was even disseminated – an international chess play Anya Corke from Hong Kong, who had never met my grandson and was not even in the country.
No action had been taken against those who perpetrated the “fake news” against my grandson, although a police report was lodged by his father, Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng.
Would there be such inertia and inaction if the victim of the “fake news” allegation of sexual molestation had been the son of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister or the UMNO/BN political leaders?
With such examples of selective investigation and prosecution, who can have any confidence in the Fake News Committee headed by Azalina Othman, as it is none other than a UMNO/BN Fake News Committee to promote fake news against Opposition leaders and to allow fake news to be spread against the Opposition.
If the UMNO/BN government is sincere in wanting to address the scourge of fake news, then dissolve and replace the Azalina Committee on Fake News with a bipartisan committee on fake news to draft laws and mechanism to tackle fake news without giving more powers to the authorities to harass and persecute dissent which is no different from “using democracy to destroy democracy”. Here, it is using the excuse of exposing fake news to disseminate fake news!
Representatives from human rights organisations and NGOs should also be fully represented in such a bipartisan committee on fake news.