Ahead of polls, Malaysia’s ‘fake news’ Bill proposes up to 10 years’ jail
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Ahead of polls, Malaysia’s ‘fake news’ Bill proposes up to 10 years’ jail

THE Malaysian government is looking to impose a hefty fine and a lengthy prison sentence for the dissemination of fake news in a Bill that is expected to be bulldozed ahead of the looming elections.

Lawmakers convened in parliament early Monday to table the proposed Anti-Fake News Bill which suggests an RM500,000 (roughly US$125,000) fine and a prison sentence of up to 10 years for offenders.

A Frequently Asked Question sheet on the bill cited by The Star indicated the government was not going to compromise on the spread of fake news, which it says could threaten the security and harmony of the country.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia and Singapore’s fake news law proposals spark concern

The government also said the current Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 were not sufficient to curb the complex nature of the spread of fake news in the technological era.

The Bill defines “fake news” as any piece of news, information, data and report, that partially or entirely false in form of an article, visual or audio recordings or in any other medium which may reflect the words or ideas in that nature.

Rights groups and members of the opposition earlier said the Bill would stifle government critics and press freedom, but the government brushed aside the concerns as “politically motivated”.

“There is no law drafted and approved by Parliament that is intended to restrict the freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the Federal Constitution,” the FAQ read.

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(File) Men walk past a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the fund’s flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur March 1, 2015. Source: Reuters/Olivia Harris

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s has faced graft allegations regarding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state investment firm, which is currently being investigated by authorities in at least six countries, including the US Department of Justice.

Najib had earlier claimed to be a victim of online slander and “fake news.” Najib’s remarks came ahead of the looming general elections due before August this year.

Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari earlier said any information related 1MDB that has not been verified by the Government is considered “fake news.”

“The Government views that other than the information that has been verified by the Government, all other information is deemed as fake news.”

SEE ALSO: Malaysian minister claims Economist, WSJ, Guardian published ‘fake news’ on 1MDB 

Last week, a collective of civil society groups said the “fake news” bill could be used as a dragnet to criminalise reporting on government misconduct, the expression of critical opinions, and the speech of the political opposition.

“Malaysian authorities have selectively prosecuted Malaysian opposition politicians, human rights defenders and journalists under existing laws for exercising their right to freedom of expression,” the groups said in a press release issued by Article 19, a non-governmental organization.

The People’s Justice Party (PKR) Communications Director Fahmi Fadzil has called on Multimedia and Communications Minister Salleh Keruak to “promise he will not instil fear amongst media practitioners especially the foreign press with regards to the 1MDB scandal”.

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