Malaysian media challenges ‘anti-fake news’ law as unconstitutional

The Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini has challenged the constitutional standing of the recently passed Anti-Fake News law. (Screen grab)
Updated 27 April 2018
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Malaysian media challenges ‘anti-fake news’ law as unconstitutional

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini has challenged the constitutional standing of the recently passed Anti-Fake News law.
The news portal filed for a judicial review on Friday at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on the basis that the law violates civil liberties and freedom of speech.
According to Malaysiakini, the media company “is seeking leave for a declaration that the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 is in violation of Article 5, and Article 10 (1), read together with Article 8.” It has also demanded that the Home Ministry and the government revoke the law.
“We feel this action is very important as the act goes against constitutional provisions of freedom of speech,” Premesh Chandran Jeyachandran, Malaysiakini’s chief executive officer, told Reuters.
The law outlines fake news broadly as “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false,” and expands it to cover digital publications and social media.
Despite the outcry by the media, human rights organizations and the public, the Anti-Fake News bill was passed swiftly in Parliament on April 2, and gazetted into law on April 11.
The unpopular law’s harsh punishment includes jail terms of up to six years and fines amounting to $130,000.
Human rights lawyer Andrew Khoo told Arab News that Malaysiakini is in the business of news reporting and is directly affected by the law.”It is hard to ensure that every news (item) is 100 percent accurate when it is first reported.” He added that news develops gradually based on facts that are subsequently disclosed or revealed.
“Hence the challenge to the law in the court — so that such wide law with vague or unclear definitions is not used in Malaysia,” he said.
Ed Legaspi, Southeast Asian Press Alliance executive director, told Arab News: “This challenge is an important move against the Anti-Fake-News law, as it registers a principled opposition to the law on the basis of right to freedom of expression.”
Legaspi added that journalists are also on the frontline of those who are threatened by the Anti-Fake News law because of their role in keeping information flowing.
The bill is part of a larger government campaign against fake news since last year.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has been running a fact-checking portal at sebenarnya.my, as well as a series of billboard-campaigns that discourage the public from sharing and spreading fake news.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Trial to open for Philippine journalist critical of Duterte

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa waves to photographers after posting bail outside a court building in Manila on March 29, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Trial to open for Philippine journalist critical of Duterte

  • Duterte, who denies being behind the case, has singled out Rappler for criticism, also banning it from covering his public events and forbidding government officials from talking to Rappler reporters

MANILA: High-profile Philippine journalist Maria Ressa’s libel trial opens Tuesday in a case that press freedom advocates see as government retaliation for her news site’s critical reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte.
Ressa, who leads online outlet Rappler and was named a Time Magazine “Person of the Year” in 2018 for her journalism, is out on bail and faces years in prison if convicted.
This case is among a string of criminal charges that have hit Ressa and Rappler over the past year, prompting allegations that authorities are targeting her and her team for their work,
The news portal has reported extensively and often critically on Duterte’s policies, including a deadly crackdown that rights groups say may be a crime against humanity.
“The message that the government is sending is very clear,” Ressa told reporters in February as she posted bail after spending the night in jail over the libel case: “Be silent or you’re next.”
The case that opens Tuesday centers on a Rappler report from 2012 about a businessman’s alleged ties to a then-judge of the nation’s top court.
Government investigators initially dismissed the businessman’s 2017 complaint about the article, but state prosecutors later decided to file charges.
The legal foundation of the case is a controversial “cybercrime law” aimed at online offenses ranging from stalking to child pornography.
Ressa, 55, argues the law did not take effect until months after the story was published.
Government lawyers say it is effectively a new article since Rappler had updated it in 2014 to fix a typographical error.
While the plaintiff is a private citizen, like all criminal cases in the Philippines the suit is prosecuted by government lawyers.
Ressa and Rappler also face tax and corporate fraud cases.
Ressa’s presence in court is not mandatory and she is not expected to attend the hearing, according to Rappler.
The libel case has drawn international attention, with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressing concern over democratic rights.
Prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who joined Ressa’s legal team this month, said the case echoed a recurring theme in her work, where “journalists who expose abuses face arrest while those who commit the abuses do so with impunity.”
Duterte, who denies being behind the case, has singled out Rappler for criticism, also banning it from covering his public events and forbidding government officials from talking to Rappler reporters.