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Anti-fake news law: A double-edged sword without a hilt

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A Fake News Act will eventually hurt not only the ruling coalition’s opponents but also all those who wield the power of this new law, writes JD Lovrenciear.

As the nation is caught up in a bitter for-and-against’ bitter battle over the government’s determination to enact a Fake News Act, what we must know is that the bill is a sword without a hilt.

A sword without a hilt hurts the hunted immediately – and the hunter eventually. It will prove to be of no advantage either for the government’s opponents or the government itself.

While the government argues that we need such laws to protect the citizens from being harmed by news that hurts the government of the day, this proposed law will certainly also hurt the government.

Indeed how long can all these self-serving means sustain the growth of citizenry?

The world we live in today has been evolving at meteoric speed since the advent of the internet.

What we witness in the global arena – in the world of journalism and information-sharing – cannot be screened, shielded, suppressed, sanitised or even threatened with laws.

As Mark Poster said, we are no more “aborial beings” living behind political curtains as in the bygone eras of iron curtains and bamboo curtains. Humanity today is “rizhomic”, giving the most remotely living nomad an instant connectivity with anyone, anywhere, anytime and anyhow.

The spread of truth and lies has blurred and greyed so much that laws cannot segregate true and fake news. Vanguard policing and fear creation cannot put the breaks on humanity in any social domain.

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What can help citizens is integrity, transparency and immediate accountability.

As Pope Francis remarked, indeed the world wide web is a gift. And like all gifts, it must be cherished. To enjoy the proliferation of truth, we need a society and a government filled with leaders of integrity, honour, accountability for only these values can create a society of people who will thrive on truth and sieve out fake news on their own volition.

But that takes a huge responsibility, a political will to invest heavily in educating people on values and philosophies and anchoring in them their own cultural and moderate religious inclinations.

Despite having six decades of experience in governing, the ruling coalition under Najib is now depending on retrogressive means to remain in power.

A Fake News Act will eventually hurt not only the ruling coalition’s opponents but also all those who wield the power of this new law. The BN government will keep hurting itself over time, but more serious is the bleed on the institutions of nationhood, namely the judiciary and the keepers of the law.

Indeed time will reveal the heavy price to be paid by an entire nation of people should the new bill get past Parliament.

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