The Macau government’s proposed Civil Protection Law which has been sent to the Legislative Assembly for discussions could have serious implications for press freedom in Macau if legislated. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Macau Portuguese and English Press Association (AIPIM) have raised serious concerns over the law and called for widespread consultation with media stakeholders to ensure press freedom is not impeded.
Under the proposed legislation, Article 25 refers to ‘biased, unfounded and fake news’ which AIPIM said is subjective and open to interpretation.
In a statement, AIPIM said that during the initial public consultations Article 25 and references to fake news were not discussed. AIPIM also has concerns about the vague and subjective nature of the expressions and concepts used, “When it comes to intent, the expression ‘or due to any other reasons that can disturb the end or the relief of the declared state (of prevention) or public tranquility’ raises apprehension, since it can pave the way for arbitrariness of law interpretation and enforcement,” AIPIM’s statement read.
AIPIM also has great reservations concerning the expression “fake news” in itself, and considers the qualification “biased and unfounded” inadequate and highly subjective, posing a risk at the level of press freedom, the editorial independence of the media and citizens’ right to information, potentially inhibiting the journalists’ role once the state of prevention is declared.
IFJ, which reiterated the concerns raised by AIPIM, is also worried that the vague definition of fake news in the law proposal may impose limitations to press freedom and freedom of expression. “We would also call on the Macau Government and the lawmakers at the Macau Legislative Assembly to clarify the concepts at stake and to amend the article in order to reassure journalists and the community, as well as to protect the different legal goods in question, also ensuring press freedom and the right to information with their best effort,” said IFJ.