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.
On to the possible charge against the Danish national, Surendran argued that where the legality of the law has been a question of national debate, its enforcement should be halted pending an authoritative decision by the courts.
“Further, the case of this Danish national nicely illustrates the dangers posed by the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 to the public’s right to freedom of expression,” he said.
English-daily The Sun had today reported the man would be charged for criticising the response time of the police following the assassination of Hamas member Fadi Mohammed al-Batsh in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month.
The 46-year-old is to be slapped with charges of creating and publishing false news under Section (4)(1) of the Anti-Fake News Act.
Commenting further, Surendran said complaints of this nature, even if found to be later incorrect, should not be criminalised.
“The public should be free to make complaints against the authorities without the fear that they may end up facing criminal charges if they were to get their facts wrong,” he stressed.
The Danish man, who is of Yemeni descent, in a video posted on social media claimed he was with the victim at the time of the shooting incident, and said the police arrived at the scene 50 minutes later.
He also claimed the ambulance arrived one hour later.
Police have denied his accusations and claimed a patrol car was dispatched and arrived at the crime scene in Setapak within 10 minutes.