Press Statement

Fake news probe on Mahathir proves public concern over the dangers of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018

3 May 2018

I refer to the fake news probe on Opposition PM candidate Tun Mahathir over his complaint that his flight was sabotaged.

The probe upon Mahathir is beyond the scope of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 ( AFNA 2018), and hence without any basis at law.

Mahathir’s allegation that there was sabotage was a legitimate complaint, which must be investigated by the relevant authorities.

It is not ‘fake news’, and it is beyond belief that it is being treated as ‘fake news’!

It is plainly against the public interest to label a complaint on a serious matter as ‘fake news’; and then investigate the complainant himself.

What sort of message does that send to the general public?

The public must be free to make complaints without fear that they may be subsequently prosecuted for publishing ‘fake news’.

The danger of this has been recently illustrated in the case of the Danish national who pleaded guilty and was convicted under the AFNA 2018 over a complaint he made relating to police response time to a shooting.

Should such complaints, even if found to incorrect, be labelled as ‘fake news’?

Further, the probe on Mahathir is in breach of the federal constitution. Article 10 of the constitution guarantees freedom of speech, subject to the exception that there can be restrictions on freedom of speech on grounds of public order etc.

Mahathir’s statement on possible sabotage of his flight has nothing to do with public order; therefore the investigation on him breaches his right to freedom of expression under Article 10.

Any probe on Mahathir on these grounds would thus be against the public interest, and a waste of public resources.

This so-called probe also proves the widespread criticism that the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 is too wide and ambiguous, and that it threatens the democratic right to freedom of expression guaranteed under our federal constitution.

Released by:
N Surendran
Lawyers for Liberty