At protest held near Parliament, civil society groups demand govt lifts suspension on Parliament

Kenneth Tee
·2-min read
The group, representing members of the Freedom of Expression Cluster, protesting near the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur, March 14, 2021.  — Picture courtesy of Centre for Independent Journalism
The group, representing members of the Freedom of Expression Cluster, protesting near the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur, March 14, 2021. — Picture courtesy of Centre for Independent Journalism

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Civil society organisations today staged a protest at Parliament against the Emergency Proclamation and the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021, demanding the federal government lift the suspension on Parliament.

The group, representing members of the Freedom of Expression Cluster, said any law that severely limits one’s fundamental liberties as enshrined in the Federal Constitution must without any compromise be enacted by all Members of Parliament and the Senate and receive the Royal assent before taking force.

“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.

“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,” it said in a statement.

Co-chaired by the Centre for Independent Journalism and ARTICLE 19 Malaysia, the Freedom of Expression cluster is a group of civil society organisations working to promote freedom of expression in Malaysia.

The newly-gazetted Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 criminalises the creation and publishing of fake news.

According to the new Ordinance that took effect on March 12, individuals found guilty of creating or publishing fake news on Covid-19 or the Emergency proclamation now face a fine of up to RM100,000 and imprisonment.

Media groups and Opposition lawmakers have since expressed concern over the provision; that it may be used as an arbitrary weapon to silence critics of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

The ordinance defines fake news as including 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.

It is applicable to all individuals, irrespective of nationality and whether or not the offence is committed outside Malaysia.

De facto law minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan had in a press conference assured Malaysians that the new Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 gazetted to curb the spreading of “fake news” will not be used once the nationwide state of Emergency is lifted.

He stressed that this is stated very clearly at the end of the document that the ordinance will only last as long as the state of Emergency is in effect.

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