(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The Police warning that the draconian laws of the Internal Security Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Sedition Act could be invokved against those spreading malicious rumours to worsen the economic problems faced by the country was repeatedly broadcast by the RTM yesterday.
Is this a wise information policy. Has the country reached a stage where the greatest threat in the national economic crisis are rumours?
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday that the prices of essential goods would go up after the Qongsi Raya season. Would ordinary Malaysians who say that prices of goods would go up next month be liable for arrest and prosecution for spreading false rumours, whether under the ISA, Printing Presses and Publicatons Act or Sedition Act?
If this is the case, can the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers be charged for spreading rumours during the crisis?
While malicious rumours must be condemned and action taken against the rumour mongers, the government must realise that Malaysia is a nation of rumours, largely because of the refusal of the government to respect the right to information of Malaysians creating the grave problem of information deficit and the lack of a free and independent press.
The authorities should seriously reconsider its information policy and promote and respect the right to information of Malaysians, which is a better and more effective way to counter rumours than wielding the big stick threatening the people with the various draconians laws in the country as if every Malaysian is a potential criminal.
In fact, the government should be prepared for a more democratic society to involve Malaysians in all sectors in the national economic recovery strategy, by reviewing and repealing the draconian laws which deny the people their fundamental liberties, whether the right to information or the right to free speech, expression and a free press.