“Vague” wording on Civil Protection Law may restrict freedom of speech – Legislator

Macau (MNA) – Legislator Sulu Sou Ka Hou criticised the vague wording of the Civil Protection Framework, in particular, the sections that deal with spreading of rumours during emergencies during a plenary session on Monday.

It is not the first time that the Civil Protection Framework has come under scrutiny, with the local Portuguese and English Press Association (AIPIM) criticising the inclusion of Article 25 of the Civil Protection Framework, which deals with ‘fake news.’

Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak defended this addition, adding that this article was not referring to normal circumstances in which the media is communicating with the public, and only in extreme circumstances in which public safety is at risk, such as typhoons.

 The secretary emphasised that “legal loopholes” which allow the spreading of rumours to cause public alarm must be addressed and solutions “standardised.”

Legislator Zheng Anting also questioned if there was going to be an issue with messages spread “in good faith” which later turn out to be false, expressing concern that the cracking down on ‘fake news’ could backfire and lead to people not expressing their views in the future.

Under the Civil Protection Framework, people who spread rumours during situations in which public safety could be affected can be subjected to up to two years in jail or a fine equivalent to 240 days, which, under serious circumstances, could be extended to three years in jail.