A Malaysian tutor today became the first person in the country to be accused under the so-called fake news law that came into effect in March.
Tutor Mohd Nazaruddin Yusoff, 50, has claimed trial after pleading not guilty at a Johor sessions court today, more than a month after he claimed on Facebook that a man had died after taking the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The deceased, who was a police officer, had died of a heart attack, according to a post-mortem report, and it was never disclosed whether the officer had been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Nazaruddin was said to have committed the offense while at the police station in Pontian district at nearly noon on April 21. The court released him on RM8,000 bail (US$1,900) and is expected to resume the case on July 7.
The tutor allegedly wrote “Another death… in Pontian, second vaccine” in Malay, accompanied by a photo of a uniformed man lying on the floor as three others attended to him. The online post has since been removed, however, screenshots of it have circulated elsewhere.
The controversial law enacted under the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 came into force on March 11, vaguely defining “fake news” as news or information that “is or are wholly or partly false relating to COVID-19 or the proclamation of emergency.” It carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment and a RM100,000 fine.
Malaysia has been under a state of emergency since Jan. 11 and is expected to come out of it on Aug. 1. The emergency powers were granted to control COVID-19 cases in the country, but many have criticized it for preventing parliamentary proceedings.
The Emergency (Essential Powers) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 amends the earlier Emergency ordinance gazetted on Jan. 14 by allowing such approvals without requiring the usual Parliament scrutiny.
This article, Tutor who linked vaccine to police officer’s death claims trial over fake news accusation, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.