A COALITION of civil society movements have lashed out at the Government over its newly enacted Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021.
“We want to reclaim the democratic space which is increasingly shrinking in this country and this ordinance has pushed the exercise of fundamental liberties to yet another edge, which is unacceptable.
“We come to the streets today to defend our fundamental constitutional right to expression, including the right to assemble peacefully and the right to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds.
“At a time of a public health crisis -this right is more important than ever,” said Freedom of Expression Cluster, in a statement.
The non-governmental organisation (NGO) is co-chaired by Centre for Independent Journalism and Article 19, Malaysia chapter.
Earlier today, the NGO organised a peaceful protest outside the Parliament building, calling for the Government to reconvene the august house sitting, which was prorogued due to the Emergency.
On March 11, the Government enacted the Ordinance under the Proclamation of Emergency dated Jan 12, without any public consultation, in order curb the spread of fake news
Following the matter, two ministers gave conflicting statements in regards to the legislation. While Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said the Government would differentiate between legitimate criticism and fake news, Law Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said anyone questing the Emergency proclamation can be penalised under the Ordinance.
Gov’t should not fear criticism
Unimpressed with their reasoning, the civil society movement said that the Ordinance, enacted without proper consultation, was enough reason why the Parliament must be reconvened.
“This Emergency Ordinance foretells the continued attempts by this Government to use any means possible to undermine our fundamental rights and freedom.
“We fear the potential for the Executive to use this law to silent dissent or any form of discourse that might threaten the sitting Government,” it said.
The NGO added the people must realise the potential danger the Ordinance may create, adding the Government is on a slippery slope with this.
Elaborating, it said the Ordinance for fake news allows heavy handed measures to be taken and circumvents one’s fundamental right to have a right to be heard.
“It also denies protection of whistleblowers, or individuals to share their personal experiences. It threatens critical enquiry about the efficacy of policies and denies accountability.
“Plus, it creates a toxic environment for good journalism and open exchange of critical information and assessment about matters that affect every single person in this country,” the NGO remarked.
On that note, the NGO urged the Government to return to the path of good governance and accountability.
“Reconvene the Parliament. The Government must also remain transparent and reinstate check and balances to the nation’s institutions,” it stressed. – March 14, 2021.