Wednesday, 05 Feb 2020 03:24 PM MYT
BY THASHA JAYAMANOGARAN
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) today issued a stern warning against those found disseminating false information on the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, saying freedom of speech does not allow propagating lies.
Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas also said that the prosecution will rely on a Penal Code law against fear-mongering rather than the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 as the latter does not fit the situation.
“The Police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission are working closely with officers in this Chambers. Charges will be made against the individuals concerned in the coming days,” he said in a statement.
“Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 is one option. However, the elements required to be satisfied by Prosecution before a person can be convicted by a Court under that provision do not fit into the category of offences that have been committed in recent times.
“Accordingly, the individuals concerned will be charged under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code which governs statements relating to public mischief. The key elements in this provision, which has been part of our criminal laws for decades, are the making or circulation of any statement or rumour which may cause fear or alarm resulting in anyone being induced to commit an offence against public tranquillity,” he said
Section 505(b) of the Penal Code penalises those who make such remarks “with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.”
If found guilty, the accused may face prison up to two years, or with fine, or both.
Thomas said government authorities are determined to prevent the spread of false statements concerning the coronavirus.
“Our health authorities must be allowed to deal with the problem in a calm and measured manner, without having to cope with extraneous matters,” he stressed.
Thomas said when an epidemic or pandemic crisis occurs in any society, it is critical that truthful and honest statements are issued by health authorities on a regular and prompt basis so that the millions of individuals who make up a society can themselves make informed decisions relating to their own health and safety, and that of their loved ones.
“When epidemics occur, panic must be prevented among the citizenry. Instead, calmness and firmness of authority should guide the people on the origins, scale and magnitude of the epidemic.
“Lies about the origins, scale and magnitude of the disease must not be permitted because they endanger public safety,” he added.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Datuk Mazlan Mansor said earlier that a total of 13 investigation papers were opened over the spread of fake news involving the outbreak.
This morning, journalist Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias was charged with three counts under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code in a Magistrate’s Court, believed to be over her social media posts on the coronavirus outbreak.
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has appealed to the government to withdraw charges against a veteran journalist accused of causing public alarm over the ongoing Wuhan virus outbreak.
Its secretary-general Chin Sung Chew said taking court action against the media in a democratic country like Malaysia for expressing free speech will be perceived as a regression in the eyes of the public, as well as internationally.
“We have no objection if the authorities wanted to investigate in combating fake news, but journalists are bound by parameters of ethical journalism and the rule of law,” he said in a statement.
Chin said the NUJ executive council is deeply concerned with the indictment of Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias, adding that she has the right as a journalist to voice her concerns publicly.
“This is due to the anxiety which was deeply felt and who are mainly not well-informed by the government over the situation of the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.
In a separate statement, NUJ interim president Farah Marshita Abd Pahat said the union will step forward to assist Wan Noor Hayati in paying her bail set at RM12,000.
However, she added that the union itself was short of funds and appealed to other journalists to donate to Wan Noor Hayati’s bail, noting that the latter is a single mother of one.
“We as journalists have an ingrained understanding that the freedom of speech we enjoy as Malaysians as well as the media are bound to parameters of ethical journalism and the rule of law.
“But every person charged is also deemed equal in the eyes of the law and Noor Hayati has the natural right to pursue her case and what she believes in Court,” she said.
Wan Noor Hayati, 41, is currently working under the New Straits Times Press Berhad and was earlier today charged at the Magistrate’s Court here under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code which handles statements conducing to public mischief, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public.
05 Feb, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR: A journalist pleaded not guilty at the Magistrate’s Court here to three charges of making statements on Facebook regarding novel coronavirus 2019 which are likely to cause fear or alarm to the public.
Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias, 41, entered the plea after the charges were read to her by an interpreter before Magistrate Tawfiq Affandy Chin.
According to all three charges, the accused through her Facebook account, ‘Ibu Yati’, knowingly made statements about the virus with the intention to cause fear or alarm to the public or any section of the public.
The three statements were read on her Facebook page at the Commercial Crime Investigation Department, Bukit Aman, here, at 10 pm on January 26, 2020.
The accused was charged under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code which provides for a maximum jail term of two years or with fine or both.
Deputy public prosecutor Nurul Ellyna Nor Azmal prosecuted while the accused who was not represented.
The court allowed bail of RM12,000 with one surety for all the charges and set March 11 for remention.