Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Malaysian opposition MP pleads not guilty to spreading fake news

Fuziah Salleh was charged over a post with video she allegedly shared on Facebook that purported to show chaos at the Johor Baru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex.
Fuziah Salleh was charged over a post with video she allegedly shared on Facebook that purported to show chaos at the Johor Baru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysian opposition MP Fuziah Salleh yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of spreading fake news about chaos at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex in Johor Baru earlier this month.

She was charged at the Johor Baru magistrate's court with making statements conducive to public mischief, and over the inappropriate use of communication facilities and causing fear or public unrest.

Fuziah, a member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and a former deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department, faces up to two years' jail, a fine or both if convicted.

A post containing a video that Fuziah allegedly shared on Facebook on April 9 purported to show Malaysian workers in Singapore rushing back to Malaysia after the island state introduced its circuit breaker measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak, and that the situation had become out of control.

The post was later deleted. The page administrator apologised for putting up an old video, which the administrator hoped had not caused panic.

The police later said the video was of a fire drill at the Sultan Iskandar Building in December last year.

"It is regrettable if the charges are political in nature as they should not have happened," Fuziah said in a statement on Tuesday.

"I will defend the truth and my rights and I am sure what is true will surface."

The court fixed bail at RM3,000 (S$970) with one surety and set June 16 for the case's next mention.

 
 
 

Separately, the Malaysian Bar has voiced its concern that those who flout the rules of the country's partial shutdown have been handed excessive sentences or treated unfairly.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, president Salim Bashir said the professional body was "disturbed by accounts of excessive sentences and cases of disparity in sentencing between ordinary people and those with influence, in relation to persons who have violated the MCO".

The MCO refers to Malaysia's movement control order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Under the order, schools and non-essential businesses have shut, and residents have been largely confined to their homes, since March 18.

The Bar's statement comes amid public backlash after two politicians were let off on Tuesday with a fine of RM1,000 each for taking part in a social gathering during the shutdown.

In contrast, a single mother was sentenced to 30 days' jail for breaching the MCO. She managed, on appeal, to get her sentence reduced to a RM1,000 fine yesterday, after spending eight days in prison.

As of yesterday, over 21,000 people in the country have been arrested for breaching the MCO, with 947 charged in court.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2020, with the headline 'Malaysian opposition MP pleads not guilty to spreading fake news'. Print Edition | Subscribe