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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Zaid foresees abuse of laws against fake news

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PETALING JAYA: Former minister Zaid Ibrahim has accused Putrajaya of seeking to enact more laws to prevent the alternative media from painting Barisan Nasional and its leaders in a bad light.
Commenting on a Bernama report about the government’s plan to introduce legislation against fake news, Zaid said he was certain that such laws would not be applied fairly.
The report quoted Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying the move was to prevent the instigation of hatred towards the government and ward off the possibility of rioting.
“We don’t want fake news to spread,” Najib said. “This does not mean we control the internet. The internet is free but the freedom must exist with some element of accountability.”
Zaid told FMT he was not appeased by Najib’s attempt to reassure the public of the government’s commitment to internet freedom.
“The Malaysian government wants to enact laws to curb online news portal and bloggers,” he said. “This is just another way of controlling news it does not approve of and it will not apply the law fairly.”
He also said the term “fake news” was used by authoritarian leaders to curb freedom of information.
“The US for a long time supported press freedom, but since its current president, Donald Trump, labelled news critical of him as fake, other countries have followed suit,” he said.
Suaram project coordinator Dobby Chew also denounced the move, claiming that the government had a record of abusing laws to silence dissent. “You already see it doing so with the Multimedia and Communications Act, the Sedition Act and a whole bunch of other stuff,” he told FMT.
He said fairness called for a proper definition of “fake news” so that online news portals would be spared.
“If you’re talking about fake news, you should be talking about the things that spread from social media that go viral very fast and have no semblance of accuracy,” he said.
However, he added that it was, under current conditions, virtually impossible for the government to stop what went on through social media.
“The government can come up with 10 different laws to deal with it, but let’s face it, you have no way to deal with Facebook, Google or some other big corporation,” he said. -FMT

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