Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Counter fake news on Covid-19 by revealing the truth, not burying it

Fake news should be tackled through the provision of full and complete disclosures supported by scientific evidence, not heavy and disproportionate punishments.

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The Emergency (Essential Powers) (No 2) Ordinance 2021, in making the publication or dissemination of fake news relating to Covid-19 or the proclamation of emergency an offence punishable with a RM100,000 fine or theee-year imprisonment, is a draconian enactment.

Such draconian provisions are usually enacted by authoritarian regimes to curb freedom of speech. The people are in need of information regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and measures to address it. It is only natural for people to want to know whether the different types of vaccines are effective and safe.

The people are entitled to know the side effects, if any, of the different vaccines. The people are entitled to know because this concerns their health, their lives and those of their family members.

The government ought to counter fake news by providing full and complete disclosures supported by scientific evidence on these matters. Reassurance to the people that the Covid-19 pandemic is being properly managed and that the vaccines are safe comes from the government revealing the truth.

Reassurance does not come by burying the truth in the form of heavy and disproportionate punishments for disseminating information. Such provisions foment suspicions and foster distrust. The effect is to drive the people to seek answers from underground and unreliable sources of information.

I call on the government to repeal the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 because such provisions will cause more harm than good.

William Leong Jee Keen is MP for Selayang.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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