Media Release: 'Fake News' should be combatted with Transparency


 Media Statement, 27 March 2018

PETALING JAYA (Thursday): The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) urges the Malaysian Parliament to reject the Anti-Fake News bill and uphold the basic tenets of our democracy and safeguard good governance in this country. 

While the world is moving towards open governance and information sharing in the digital spheres, it is disturbing that Malaysia slides deeper into authoritarianism, and remains rife with misinformation due to a lack of information.

 “An anti-‘fake news’ law only doubles-down on approaches that already heavily weigh on the country’s repressive justice system. The Official Secrets Act and Printing Presses Act must be singled out in this case, as it heavily criminalises the possession and distribution of certain information. Is this law another one more to cover up corruption scandals?
With such a tight secrecy framework by the BN regime, everything seems just half-truths or outright lies. The government must be obliged to preventively clear the air between truth and falsehoods through proactively publishing data, conforming to open data principles and actively guaranteeing freedom of information.
Transparency is the best arbiter of fake news.”
                                                                                                                                      – Cynthia Gabriel, C4 Center

 The arbitrariness of the definition of “fake news” is repugnant to the rule of law, and with the bill enpowering only the Attorney General to prosecute, it promotes greater impunity. It is a crushing blow for civic spaces and investigative journalism in this country.

At the heart of this debate is a key principle of freedom of information: maximal disclosure, with a limited scope of exceptions. Information is power, and a regime in power for 6 decades know this only too well.

International best practices inform us that all information held by public bodies, institutions and organisations should by default be disclosed to the public, but only very specific exceptions that constitute harm to security and public interest should be withheld.

This episode only serves to highlight how a law that restricts the flow of information fuels more speculation rather than clarify the truth; encourages impunity and fuels corruption.

The bill further disincentivise whistleblowers, which make detecting and fighting corruption more difficult, as it covers any sort of medium on which a whistleblower may expose potential malfeasance. C4 Center already believes that Whistleblowers Protection Act is weak and needs to be strengthened, but such a fake news law will have the chilling effect of silencing them instead.

 C4 Center believes that information available to the public is the most effective form of check and balance against public malfeasance, and thus enables us to separate fake from real news of corruption.

We must end impunity by braving up to the truth!

Released by:

Cynthia Gabriel (Ms.)
Executive Director, C4 Center

In The News

 Free Malaysia Today, C4: Fight Fake News with Transparency, not Punishment
Daily Express, Fight Fake News with Transparency, urges NGO