Fake news declining due to Emergency Ordinance

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE Emergency Ordinance has led to the decrease of fake information and news related to the pandemic since being implemented last March.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (picture) said the Emergency Ordinance has helped the authorities to expedite investigations.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department director Datuk Dev Kumar said during the Emergency, the trend of fake news has been declining from an average of 24 cases per month to seven cases.

“We strongly believe that the Emergency Ordinance has helped with the reduction of fake news with regards to the pandemic, on top of other actions that have been taken by the task force to refute fake news,” he said in a virtual press conference about fake news organised by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry (KKMM) yesterday.

According to KKMM data, from March 24, 2020, to July 17, 2021, a total of 465 denials of false news have been published and explained to the public.

Of the 465 disclaimers, some 416 disclaimers were issued from March 24 to Dec 31, 2020.

Meanwhile, a total of 49 disclaimers were issued from Jan 1 to July 17 this year.

The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) has taken action against false news related to Covid-19 under the Penal Code, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Emergency Ordinance (Essential Powers) No 2 2021, informally known as the “Fake News Ordinance” which has been in force throughout the Emergency period.

From March last year to July 11 this year, 282 cases were acted upon; 163 cases are still under investigation; 119 cases have been investigated; 29 cases have been prosecuted in court (six under the Fake News Ordinance); and three cases have been sentenced. PDRM has investigated 743 cases related to 3R (Royalty, Religion and Race) from 2015 to June 2021 of which 80 have been prosecuted in court.

The Fake News Ordinance is meant to expire six months after the Emergency if it is not revoked or annulled in Parliament.

Saifuddin did not say whether there would be a similar legislation to target misinformation involving Covid-19 with Parliament recommencing soon, and if the Ordinance did get annulled.

“If there is no new Emergency proclamation after Aug 1, whatever that has been investigated under this Ordinance will continue because it operates using existing laws (for example Sedition Act and Penal Code).

“So, we should not be worried about having less ability to conduct investigations,” he said.

The minister also revealed that a command centre chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob with the National Security Council as secretariat will be established to enhance the smooth running of the country’s cyber security surveillance efforts involving various agencies.

“This is to show the government’s seriousness to fend off any cyber security threats that we understand from time to time is increasingly challenging,” he added.