Lawyers creating Fake News following tabling of Anti Fake-News Bill

TTF: Constitutional lawyer Lim Wei Jiet said today that publishers of satire and artists would be affected by the planned Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, reports the Malay Mail Online (see news item below).

The lawyer, who I’m told is attached to the Ambiga Sreenevasan founded Sreenevasan Advocates & Solicitors, alleged that the bill would “kill satirical news” and lead to abuse by government, which, according to him, would have a “free pass to control our thoughts, minds and ultimately who we vote for.”

Now that’s fake news right there!

And it seems to be coming from a person seen associated with a firm whose owner, Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, purports to champion truth and justice. Not only is Wei Jiet culpable for creating fake news, he is guilty of inciting fear against the federal government at a time the country is preparing to go to the front (GE14).

And that’s no coincidence.

The reason being, there was absolutely no reason for him to wander so deep into theories of conspiracy by implying that the government was planning to condition voters. He may as well have stretched the ‘conspiracy’ further by implying that the government would also revamp history syllabi to brainwash students and distort facts.

Yes, the only limit there is to the depth of conspiracy theories is that which the mind affords the thinker to imagine. Going by Wei Jiet’s logic, if Parliament were to pass a Bill regarding, say, rape, I could immediately come out and suggest that the law would be subject to abuse as the government could easily put the fix on its enemies by paying spouses to cry rape!

And the ‘logic’ holds just as well for every other law there is in this country. Wei Jiet makes it sound as if the government is judge, jury and executioner, that courts don’t exist and that a person charged for a crime is not entitled to a fair trial.

And this guy’s a lawyer.

If anything, the authorities should consider charging this fellow along with lawyer Surendra Ananth under the Sedition Act 1948 for implying that the government is bent on curbing freedom of expression. 

The fact that the duo is dishing out misleading statements in capacity as defenders of justice is an abuse of privileges granted by the Federal Constitution, the very privileges the duo claims to be defending. The fact that they’re members of the Bar – with Wei Jiet being involved with the Council’s constitutional law committee – reflects poorly on the regulatory body assuming the council lets them off the hook.

The role of the Bar, though not explicitly stated, is to assist the Federal Government in keeping the law within scopes of rationality and sensibility. But how is one to expect the council to assume such responsibilities if its own members are seen abusing privileges on the pretext of disseminating ‘constitutional’ advice’?

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KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya’s proposed law against fake news will criminalise and even kill satire, lawyers have cautioned.

Constitutional lawyer Lim Wei Jiet said that publishers of satire and artists would be affected by the planned Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, which was tabled in Parliament today.

“This would surely kill satirical news — which are an important element in socio-political dialogue. Think about cartoonists, The Tapir TimesThe Onion etc.

“Artists and publishers use their creative license day in and day out — often via hyperbole and exaggeration — and I am afraid we would all err on the side of caution and be stultified to nothing,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Lim pointed out the potential for the proposed law’s abuse if the government is the one that decides what is fake news, highlighting the “troubling question” of whether the new Section 4 offence of “knowingly” creating and circulating fake news would be based on the accused’s own subjective reading of sources, or according to government-vetted sources.

“There is uncertainty & arbitrariness in the legislation. This is against established principles that criminal legislation must always be clear because we are dealing with the liberty of a subject here.

“If indeed any information which deviates from government sources is deemed “fake news”, then it would send a chilling effect on our democratic freedoms & be a precursor to an Orwellian society,” he said, adding that the proposed law is allegedly a “free pass” for the governing party of the day to “control our thoughts, minds and ultimately who we vote for”.

Lawyer Surendra Ananth, who co-chairs the Bar Council’s constitutional law committee, said the proposed law leaves huge gaps for abuse as fake news is “not defined” and the Section 4 offence of creating, publishing and distribution of fake news “covers matters that are not news as well”.

“Further, it allows the government to be the arbiter of what amounts to the “truth”. This a gross fetter on free speech. Imagine this, comedy and political satire can be criminalised,” he told Malay Mail, later pointing out that the requirement for knowledge that something is fake would not exclude political satire from being criminalised.

Satire is the use of elements such as humour, irony and exaggeration to criticise or comment on issues such as politics and other typical issues.

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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