Lawyers challenge Singapore attempt to use ‘fake news’ law over prison killings claim

From Free Malaysia Today

Lawyers for Liberty adviser N Surendran, flanked by Gurdial Singh Nijar and LFL director Melissa Sasidaran, talking to reporters. Pic from FMT.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) is seeking to declare as illegal an order issued by Singapore’s home minister, under its anti-fake news law, over claims by the rights group on brutal extra-legal execution methods carried out at the Changi Prison.

In a suit filed at the High Court registry today, LFL is also seeking a court pronouncement that the minister, or anyone acting under his authority, could not act to enforce any provision of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

“A correction direction issued by Singapore under Pofma is illegal, oppressive and an attempt to silence Malaysian citizens from exercising their right to free speech in Malaysia,” they said.

Apart from LFL, the other plaintiffs are its adviser, N Surendran, and director Melissa Sasidaran.

Minister K Shanmugam is named as the defendant.

The swift action came about after LFL claimed it had received evidence of such methods by prison guards in the event the hanging procedure fails during execution.

Surendran, who is also a lawyer, alleged that if the rope broke during a hanging, a prison officer would pull the rope that was around the neck of the prisoner towards him.

“Meanwhile, another prison officer will apply pressure by pulling the body in the opposite direction.” he had said.

Saying the details were shared by a former executioner at Changi Prison, Surendran said prison guards would kick the convict’s back “with great force in order to break it”, while ensuring there would be no tell-tale marks in case there was an autopsy.

Singapore said the claims were “untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations”, adding that all judicial executions in the state were carried out in strict compliance with the law.

It also instructed the Pofma office to issue a “correction direction” against LFL’s statement on its website.

Meanwhile, lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar said this was an unusual action against Singapore as the penalty for violating Pofma carried a jail term.

“They can issue a warrant of arrest against Surendran and Melissa to face charges there,” he said.

Gurdial, who is taking up the case with Ambiga Sreenevasan, said the minister could rely on sovereign immunity in not responding to the suit but, at the same time, he had encroached into fundamental rights of Malaysian citizens.

“You cannot extend your laws against the citizens of another nation,” Gurdial said, adding that he hoped the minister would contest the action in the Malaysian court.

Meanwhile, Ambiga said it was imperative for the plaintiffs to file this action against the minister as the new Malaysian government has repealed its Anti-Fake News Act.

Meanwhile, in an affidavit in support of the action, the plaintiffs said LFL’s statement issued on Jan 16 was in the public interest as there were many Malaysians facing the death penalty in Singapore.

They said the minister issued an order to do a correction and failure to do so was an offence under Pofma, which carried a fine of up to S$20,000 or a maximum jail sentence of 12 months for individuals.

They said LFL had issued a press statement three days ago dismissing the minister’s stand.

Anti-Fake News Act will be repealed, says Gobind

Source: The Malay Mail

New Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Gobind Singh Deo, has now indicated that the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 will be abolished, saying, “Media freedom is my priority. The media churning out news and publishing companies are bound by the existing laws so we have to look at it that way and we have to find ways to improve the freedom of press in the country. And I am committed to do so.

The Anti-Fake News Act officially gazetted in April will be abolished, said the new Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — The Anti-Fake News Act officially gazetted in April will be abolished, said the new Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo today.

He said the proposal to abolish the act would be brought to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad so that it could be abolished as soon as possible.

“I have a list that we need to study. I will hold a press conference tomorrow to inform specifically. We have an Anti-Fake News Act. As mentioned in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, we will repeal it.

“We will set the time frame, the first 100 days we have to deliver but how much time is required I will discuss with my officials tomorrow. Indeed, I will do it and start work tomorrow at 8.30am sharp,” he said here. Read more

Stop all fake news charges pending review, says lawyers’ group

Source: Malaysiakini

All enforcement and prosecution under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 should be stopped pending the outcome of a challenge against its constitutionality, said watchdog group Lawyers for Liberty today.

LFL advisor N Surendran in a statement said this in response to news reports this morning that a Danish national will be the first person to be charged under the Anti-Fake News Act for allegedly making a false claim against the police.

“I call upon the home minister and attorney-general to halt all enforcement and prosecution under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 pending the outcome of a test case now awaiting hearing in the KL High Court,” said Surendran.

He was referring to a constitutional challenge filed by Malaysiakini last week against the legislation. Read more

Dane jailed a week, fined RM10,000 over fake news

Source: The Sun Daily

KUALA LUMPUR: A Danish national who was the first person to be charged under the newly enacted Anti-Fake News Act pleaded guilty at the sessions court here today.

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, 46, was sentenced to a week’s imprisonment from the date of arrest and RM10,000 fine in default a month jail.

He was not represented and was charged under the Anti-Fake News Act for publishing a fake post between 6am and 9am on April 21 at a condominium in Setapak in connection to the murder of a Palestinian national in Kuala Lumpur.

He had claimed that police had arrived late at the murder scene but the police denied this and said they had arrived at the scene in less than 10 minutes. Read more

Malaysia issues first ‘fake news’ conviction

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists

Bangkok, April 30, 2018–In a verdict with grave implications for press freedom, a Malaysian court today handed down the nation’s first conviction under its recently enacted “fake news” law, according to press reports.

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, a Danish citizen, was sentenced to one week in prison and fined 10,000 ringgit (US$2,500) for posting to the internet a two-minute video criticizing police’s response to the April 21 assassination of a member of the militant group Hamas in Kuala Lumpur.

Sulaiman, who was traveling in Malaysia on vacation when he posted the video, pleaded guilty to the criminal charges of spreading false information, saying that he was unaware of local laws, and apologized to Malaysian authorities, news reports said. Read more

Our rights deserve a broader perspective — Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star Online

BY AZMI SHAROM

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher.

THE anti-fake news law has already been much criticised for its vagueness and broadness and, due to that, its potential to be a potent threat to free speech and the freedom of the press.

I won’t therefore add to that line of argument.

Neither would I dwell on the disingenuous argument that anyone who does not support the new Act supports fake news. That is too facile to dignify with a response.

I would like, however, to state that I find it difficult to justify the law from a legal perspective. The Constitution states that Parliament may make laws that restrict free speech if the purpose is to protect national security, public order and morals. Read more

Anti-Fake News Act receives Royal assent, gazetted

Source: The Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR: The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 has received the Royal assent and has been gazetted, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said the new law would not curtail the freedom of journalists.

“I know that some journalists are worried that this new Act will be used to restrict their freedom in reporting,” he said at the inaugural National Journalists’ Day (Hari Wartawan Nasional or Hawana) celebration here Wednesday.

“But I would like to say that this is not the right view as the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, through Section 8A, has already made it an offence to publish any fake news,” he added. Read more