From today onwards, you could be fined up to RM100,000, or jailed three years, or both, for creating or sharing fake news on COVID-19 or the Emergency proclamation enforced to contain the pandemic.

This is according to the new Emergency (Essential Powers) (No.2) Ordinance 2021 published on the Federal Gazette website yesterday.

According to the gazette, dated March 11, the offenders are any person "who, by any means, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public, crates, offers, publishes, prints, distributes, circulates or disseminates any fake news of publication containing fake news, commits and offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both."

The ordinance also stipulates an additional fine of RM1,000 per day, where the offence is continuously committed after the date of conviction, reported Malay Mail.

The definition of "fake news" in the gazette can include any publication, including in digital form, or subsequent reproductions, of news, information, data and reports which are "wholly or partly false relating to COVID-19 or the proclamation of emergency, whether in the forms of features, visuals or audio recordings, or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas."

Besides those creating or spreading fake news, parties who directly or indirectly provide financial assistance to the former, also stand to be fined up to RM500,000, or jailed for six years, or both, upon conviction.

The ordinance also exempts the federal government or any authorised personnel, such as the police, from lawsuits and legal proceedings, in enforcing it.

Companies or its representatives involved can also be charged for the offence.

The ordinance also gives the government far-reaching powers, quite literally, as the authorities can prosecute any individual - Malaysian, or non-Malaysian, including those who reside overseas, for an offence committed within the country.

You can access the full copy of the ordinance here to get the full picture.

With the new law in place, perhaps it is better to think not only twice, but many times over, before you create, share or distribute any fake news regarding the pandemic or the emergency ordinance.

Source: Malay Mail,
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