Warum Europa nicht auf Ministerin Varga hereinfallen sollte

„Die Welt” berichtete am 12. April von einem Gespräch mit der ungarischen Justizministerin dr. Judit Varga über die am 11. März in Kraft getretenen Notstands- und Ermächtigungsgesetze. Die Ministerin halte die Kritik daran (so auch hier) für „Falschnachrichten” und „Ausdruck einer liberalen Meinungsdiktatur in Europa”. Da es sich hier um ein Notstandsgesetz handelt, will ich vorsichtig vorgehen. Bei der Beurteilung des Gesetzes ist allein der Text die maßgebende Tatsache. Die Stellungnahme der Ministerin gleicht aber eher einer politischen Propaganda als einer sorgfältigen Analyse der Regelung.

Continue Reading →

State of Emergency Through the Back Door

One of the problems for Indonesia’s government when dealing with the coronavirus crisis was its non-transparent approach towards the public. Not least because of that, many people in Indonesia do not trust the government when it comes to handling the pandemic. The government’s attempt to declare the civilian emergency status which would have enabled it to control the flow of information has failed due to public opposition. A move by its police chief, however, is now trying to introduce emergency powers through the back door and in blatant disregard of a Constitutional Court ruling.

Continue Reading →

Don’t Call a Spade a Shovel

Such concerns are, not only but to a large extent, fueled by the apparent indeterminacy of the terms employed to regulate fake news. This is true for Hungary, but also for France, Russia and several Asian countries, which have already passed fake news legislation. Uncertainties concerning the definition may have discouraged other states from passing similar laws, out of legitimate worries over freedom of expression. In fact, however, many scholars and institutions actually agree on the characteristics of the phenomenon.

Continue Reading →

Abstract panic: On fake news, fear and freedom in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, which is the world’s most dynamic laboratory of fake news legislation, the corona crisis has put previously created laws to practice and sparked additional legislative activity. The professed goal is to prevent public panic. Recent enforcement actions, however, demonstrate the complete irrelevance of any panic indicators. A falsehood’s panic potential is simply assumed. In short, an abstract panic threat is fought with very concrete measures: Arrests and criminal prosecutions. Cases from across Southeast Asia prove the trend, whereas two decisions in Singapore deserve particular attention.

Continue Reading →

Fighting Fake News or Fighting Inconvenient Truths?

Last week, the Hungarian Parliament amended the Criminal Code: it created the new crime of “obstructing epidemic prevention” and amended the already existing crime of scaremongering (rémhírterjesztés). The old version did have some shortcomings but the now adopted modification addresses none of the previously existing problems and makes the crime more susceptible to abuse by the authorities.

Continue Reading →

Truth vs. Free Speech

Southeast Asian governments have been stepping up their efforts to actively manage the truth by combatting false information. Among the main tools are correction orders and state-run “fake news centers” that monitor and “rectify” alleged falsehoods online. In addition, government discourse employs increasingly belligerent language to denounce the perceived threats. The Southeast Asian “war on fake news” thus makes the region the world’s most vibrant laboratory of anti-falsehood legislation. The protection of the truth is becoming an increasingly accepted ground for restricting free speech.

Continue Reading →

Norway’s Heureka Moment?

Norwegian elections are usually quite boring. While the government changes between different parties, the party structure has been remarkably stable for more than 80 years. And for decades, constitutional lawyers have been denied juicy electoral scandals. The electoral system runs smoothly without major hiccups. Monday’s local election brought at last a glimmer of excitement for Norwegian constitutional lawyers. Not only did a newly-formed protest movement shake up the traditional party landscape. It also came to light that Norway’s public broadcaster attempted to manipulate students in the non-official school election.

Continue Reading →

A Ministry of Truth in Singapore? Reflections on the Anti-Fake News Bill

On 1 April, the government of Singapore introduced the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill. Often referred to as the Singaporean anti-fake news law, it is expected to be enacted with a few changes in the coming weeks or months. A closer look at the bill’s context, its most powerful elements and its possible regional impact as a model for legislation in other countries reveals that it is most likely to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Continue Reading →

Fundamental Rights as Bycatch – Russia’s Anti-Fake News Legislation

On 18 March, following approval by President Putin, Russia’s controversial anti-fake news legislation entered into force. While Russia is not the only state to address the issues of hate speech or fake news with legislative means, its new legislation raises serious constitutional concerns, particularly due to its imprecise and overly broad scope of application.

Continue Reading →

A Look behind the Fake News Laws of Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, attempts to regulate the fake news phenomenon can be broadly categorized, on the one hand, in cases where fake news laws are conceived at least also as the government’s weapon to silence critics and dissenters, and on the other hand, cases where the discourse is lead more open-ended. Under the first category, Malaysia springs to mind, Cambodia and Vietnam possibly too. Thailand is a somewhat mixed case. Much more open-ended are the fake news discourses in Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Continue Reading →