CORONAVIRUS | The Attorney-General Chambers has vowed to charged those spreading false information on the new coronavirus outbreak but will not apply the contentious Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA).
In a statement today, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas (above) said that while that provision was an option, it does not fit the category of offences that have been committed in recent times.
"It is (also) clear that Section 233 should be subject of a parliamentary amendment, hopefully soon," said Thomas.
Section 233 of the Act provides for a maximum fine of RM50,000 or a jail term not exceeding one year or both, for the improper use of network facilities or network service.
Thomas said that individuals spreading fake news about the coronavirus outbreak will instead be charged under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code.
"The key elements in this provision... 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.
Putrajaya has promised to amend Section 233 and 211 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 on grounds that it was subject to abuse.
Meanwhile, Thomas said it was important to stop public panic when an epidemic occurs in order to allow the authorities to guide the people through the crisis calmly.
He said that it is in the national interest that persons who initiate and disseminate lies on any issues relating to the outbreak be investigated and charged if there was the case.
"No freedom is absolute in any society at any point of time in history," he said.
"The constitutionally entrenched guarantees of free speech and expression and the statutorily guaranteed right not to censor the Internet stated in Section 3(3) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 do not give a license to propagate lies."