Fake News Laws and Democracy Don’t Mix

May 14, 2018


Image result for Clare Rewcastle Brown and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Fake News Laws and Democracy Don’t Mix

What is fake news and what is not will be clearly defined, says Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said the new government will not restrict on the press regardless of their leanings, but warned that any efforts to instigate the people will not be tolerated.

“Fake news laws will be given clear definitions so that news companies know what is fake news and what is not fake news.

“Even though we support freedom of the press and free speech, but there are limits. If they purposely try to create chaos, they will have to face action under specific laws.”

However, he said the government would not restrict any factual reports.

“If the press writes (factual) reports, even if makes the government uncomfortable, they are free to do so, we will not take action,” Mahathir said in a special televised address on RTM today.

Source: Fake News Laws and Democracy Don’t Mix


Image result for Clare Rewcastle Brown and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Dr M will remember how the authorities accused him of lying over his slashed plane tyres just a week ago.  They called it Fake News.

‘Facts’ in the world of science are usually established through being tried and tested. Even so, matters regarded as fact for decades can later be discovered to be false, usually thanks to dissenters who eventually proved their point. The context of human discourse is far more complex and changing still.  You cannot create a scientific ‘definition’ to govern such things and human society needs those dissenters to be able to voice their position.

There are already huge disincentives facing journalists and public persons when it comes to deliberately or mistakenly disseminating false information.  Firstly, a reputation once lost is hard to regain.  Secondly, there are paths to sue within a civil context.  That is enough.

Leaders ought not to fear a false bogeyman – the idea that some unknown person could suddenly spout nonsense that would have hoards running onto the streets.  For every purveryor of false information there is the check of a trusted voice of good sense to counter-balance the impulses of the people in these situations.

Only one phenomenon breaks that rule, which is the development of cults – mostly extremist versions of established religions.  Cults can stir up dangerous actions by the indoctrinated followers, fed daily on false information.  Hence, bombs on the streets of Europe and elsewhere.

However, there is terror legislation for these matters and dangerous preachers are a very different target to journalists and ought to be handled separately.

Journalists and citizens must be allowed speak freely and even be allowed to get it wrong, if they can show their intentions were to inform about something they genuinely had good reason to believe and are willing to correct and amend if found mistaken (as opposed to intended and malicious lies).  These are the principles that have now evolved after much pain and argument in most modern democracies and Malaysia would do well to join them.

After all, the alternative is far worse.  It gives power to people like Najib to tell people like Dr M that they are lying over slashed tyres, 1MDB and all the rest.

SR rests its case.

4 thoughts on “Fake News Laws and Democracy Don’t Mix

  1. Fake news? It’s a construct of post-modern ‘ignoramus’ communications.

    I wonder what the Guru of Media, the late M. McLuhan (predicted the world wide web 3 decades before it existed, ‘global village’ and the medium is the message’) would say?
    Perhaps this:
    “History now stands revealed as a multilayered, multifaceted value retrieval system functioning within a maelstrom of perceptual relationships moving in and out of one another through time and getting nowhere.
    Culture has become a word social scientists use to describe the latest configuation of the mythic meaning indigenous to a specific geohistorical locaion.
    Politics is the word we use to describe the hopeless attempt to remythologize our collective lives.”
    (Subversive Orthodoxy. Robert Inchaussti – so please don’t read it)

    He also said: The (Prince of the World, aka devil) masterstroke to be, is not only environmental and invisible, for the environment is invincibly persuasive when ignored i.e Propaganda.

    I think there are already too many laws. The Fake News, Defamation-Libel and MCMC regulations should be streamlined into a single “Anti-Gossip” law. Pity housewives and in general, Men, who would gossip about the color of their underwear..

    Best to give it sometime. Octo knows what he is doing.. For better, for worse.

  2. Fake News, like fake watches and handbags, require a specific law to deal with, especially now when such news are purveyed around the World at light speed. I see Fake News laws as no different from the law on Defamation or commercial forgery.

    Only deliberate purveyors of fake news are worried, just as only murderers are worried about the death penalty.

    The point is not that laws are “good” or “bad”, but its administration or rather its fair or unfair administration. You can have the best laws, but if you have selective prosecutions based not on the unbiased administration of justice, or having a politically compliant judiciary, then all these laws will look “bad”

    We therefore still fall back on the tried and tested adages of “The Separation of Powers” and “Checks and Balances” for these are truly the ultimate guarantees.

    And finally a Free & Fair Electoral System where an informed and educated populace show their satisfaction or dissatisfaction periodically.

    To those people against fake news laws, please take a look at the United States gun control laws or the lack of it. It has reached the stage of no return and no strict gun control laws could ever be introduced.

    Fake News, if not tackled effectively now, would be the “illegal guns” of tomorrow.

    • I disagree – having a law that limits a certain time of speech goes against the principles of the freedom of speech. It is literally impossible to define what constitute as hate speech or speech that incites terrorism/violence etc. The net is so wide, the government can basically use it to stifle any form of dissent.

      Similarly – I subscribe to the principles of guns do not kill people, people with guns kill people. Short of an outright ban of all guns, criminals will never adhere to any form of laws. It’s too long of a debate to get into, so I’ll leave it at that

  3. I personally tend to agree with Pat , which tantamount to the basic point that Fakery ( or what amounts to a fake statement , and what does not amount to it being a fake ) is something UNDEFINEABLE ……. is’nt it too wide ? –

    We see already in place in the modern-day form of Government , ALL SORTS OF Laws : for cheating, for theft or robbery , for false or malicious statements & utterances ( as in defamation ) , for intrusion into people’s privacy, possession of unlicensed weapons , down to fighting in public places & or creating unrest & civil disobedience , rioting…..etc ….etc….. – point is ALL laws are already in place.

    What really does the State Authority , armed with all sorts of laws, need to have a further very specific law called ‘ Anti Fake ‘ law ? >
    It does not make sense , because the Court is there to decide, and NOT for public authority officials (themselves ) to decide whether something is Fake or not ……? ( Have we all not heard about Public Officials ‘abusing ‘ the law in specific cases …..? ) – to my mind, this is to amass ‘ power ‘ ……please…..even amassing ‘wealth ‘ laws are in place already….

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