Rights group slams MCMC’s clampdown on ‘irresponsible’ news outlet spreading misinformation

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today criticised the federal government’s alleged clampdown on media outlets in the name of stifling misinformation and irresponsible reporting, likening them to a deliberate disregard of the Federal Constitution and the hallmark of dictatorial rule.

In reference to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) statement issued last week, LFL director Zaid Malek said deliberate attempts to arbitrarily suspend news portals were a violation of Article 10(1)(a) and 10(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution as fake or inaccurate news does not fall within any of the restrictions of freedom of speech.

He said the regulatory body’s recent action appeared to be a flimsy excuse to clamp down on unfavourable or critical media outlets.

“Hence, the course of action being pursued by MCMC and Fahmi Fadzil is unlawful, unconstitutional and a blatant abuse of power.

“Censoring speech and news as ‘fake news’ will stifle discourse on issues of public importance for fear of prosecution, rendering the right to free speech nugatory,” he said in a statement here.

Zaid said the government must understand the importance of a free press for the functioning of the country’s democracy in its commitment to reform, noting that it was appalling that the government sought to disguise media censorship under the guise of protecting “the truth” for the sake of societal “harmony”.

He cited a similar reasoning previously employed by MCMC in shutting down news and criticism surrounding the 1MDB scandal which was later proven true.

“As such, this government must immediately halt blocking of news sites or media censorship using the convenient excuse of fake news,” he said.

MCMC had defended its clampdown, noting that there has been a rise in irresponsible and inaccurate reporting with the increasing prevalence of online information as some news outlets have been found intentionally spreading misleading information or publishing inaccurate content that could harm the harmony enjoyed by the community.

To address these issues, MCMC said it has the authority and duty to take regulatory action against the spread of fake, offensive and menacing content.