Anti-fake news law is another attack on all of us

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

"The actions of the two reporters may have hurt the feelings of the people but I was satisfied that they did not intend to offend anyone. It was an act of sheer ignorance."

- Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail

COMMENT | Here is an example of the fabrication and dissemination of fake news and how the Umno hegemon deals with it.

Eight years ago, journalists from the Al-Islam magazine went undercover in the Catholic Church, took Holy Communion and then spat out the communion wafers, the photos of which they published in their magazine.

Why did they do this? Because they heard “reports” that the church was converting Muslims.

How did the Umno state deal with these purveyors of fake news? They did not do anything. Charges were dropped and the magazine apologised for any distress caused. “The journalists said they had found no evidence of the illegal conversion of Muslims.”

And what of the press? How does the Umno hegemon handle fake news when it comes from the press? Well, this what a self-defined Umno’s mouthpiece said of the role of the media six years ago in a forum - “In our style of writing, we have facts, spin and one more - blatant lies. From the point of psychological warfare, let’s not follow ‘blatant lies’, let’s not write lies. Spin we can; no matter how we spin a certain fact to be biased in our favour, that’s okay,” said Utusan Malaysia editor Mohd Zaini Hassan.

Fellow forum panellist, meanwhile, used Islam to justify deceptions against the opposition. Umno young ulama secretariat Fathul Bari Mat Jahaya rationalised this by “citing how Prophet Muhammad had used deception to fight his enemy.”

I have been getting calls and messages asking me what I thought about this proposed anti-fake news bill. I just do not see the big deal. What this proposed bill does is makes it easier for the Umno state to control the narrative, scare the crap out of some people and allow for a certain amount of hand-wringing by a certain section of the general public.

The greater danger that the government made into law was the National Security Council (NSC) Act, but not many people showed any interest in that. This proposed bill is just another in a long line of clumsy efforts by a government in jeopardy because of its ineptitude and pecuniary scandals.

What the Umno state has done is just another attempt to define what is fake. They do this with religion. They do this with race. They do this with myriad other issues and policies that affect us as a society. This is nothing...

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