Malaysia proposes 10-year jail term for 'fake news'

Noel Cummings
March 27, 2018

The anti-fake news bill, which must be approved by parliament, calls for penalizing those who create, offer, circulate, print or publish fake news or publications containing fake news with a 10-year jail term, a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) or both.

The much anticipated Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 was tabled at the Dewan Rakyat for its first reading on Monday (March 26).

For subsequent offences, the offender can be fined up to RM3,000 per day for the duration of the offence after conviction.

It interprets the inaccurate news as any kind of news, information, data and reports published which, in part or whole and in whatever form including write-ups and visual or audio recordings, are false.

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Clause 3 of the bill provides any offence committed by any person, whatever his nationality or citizenship, in any place outside Malaysia, he may be dealt with in respect of such offence as if the offence was committed at any place within Malaysia.

If convicted, the funder can also be fined up to RM500,000 or sentenced to a jail term of up to 10 years or both.

The new law is reportedly to curb the spread of fake news while complementing existing legislation in a more holistic and effective way.

Is it true? No, it's just another fake news doing the round on social media. "But journalists and opposition politicians fear that it could be used to target them".

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While a common reader may ignore fake news as a thing that goes around endlessly, the concern is rising as the issue is posing a serious threat to those in power, democracy and free speech. The ruling Barisan Nasional government has 131 MPs in the 222-member Parliament.

"At the same time, the bill will also give a clear message that the government will not compromise in the matter of dissemination of fake news that can undermine public order or national security, and will continue to ensure that national security is preserved", said Azalina Othman Said, a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, in an interview to New Straits Times.

"Geramm believes the best tool to fight against fake news is not with another oppressive law, but through enforcing rights to freedom of information", it said.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak said, analysis conducted by the Malaysian Communications Multimedia Commission (MCMC), showed that the majority of Malaysians get fake or unverified news via WhatsApp (84 per cent), Facebook (eight per cent), while blogs and other sources come in at four per cent, respectively.

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A total of 54 cases were resolved while 11 cases were brought to court for further action.

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