Don’t confuse reporting of lies as freedom of speech

Petaling Jaya – Staff of The Malaysian Insider were arrested for their tendency to habitually pass off false and inaccurate information as truth, said the head of the Centre for Political Awareness, Huan Cheng Guan.

 

He said that contrary to the accusation that the government and police were stifling freedom of speech, TMI broke the law by putting out a “highly erroneous” article on hudud and implicated the Conference of Rulers in the process.

 

“The error is very serious because if it were perceived as truth, the possibility of a Malay uprising is there,” he said, in a statement today, adding that it was only right that TMI take responsibility for its actions, which to date it has refused to do.

 

He pointed out that the news portal refused to amend the article which till today can be accessed from its site and that the police only took action because a report had been lodged with them by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal.

 

“Action was taken based on the police report lodged by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal and not because of any other person/parties,” he said.

 

He also condemned watchdog bodies like the National Union of Journalists, among others who did not seem to realise that TMI had flouted a Code of Ethics by deliberately deceiving the public with false statements.

 

“The role of such watchdog bodies should be to pressure fellow journalists to report truth. They and other critics should not derail the whole scenario by accusing the government of victimising TMI,” Huan said.

 

Defending the government’s action and arguing that they acted “within the parameters of duty”, he added, “Had this occurred in other authoritarian governments, the whole portal would have been closed down, owners fined and guilty ones immediately charged.”

 

He made reference to 16-year-old Amos Yee of Singapore who insulted the late Lee Kuan Yew and Christians in a YouTube video, saying that was “a good example of how strict enforcement shows no mercy”.

 

He said the public outcry at the TMI arrests was misplaced in that it gave the “absurd impression that journalists are above the law”.

 

Pleading that critics look at the incident “squarely and objectively”, he asked, “What do you expect the government to do? Award these guilty ones with medals for spinning?”

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