Bills on electoral map, fake news to be tabled in Malaysian Parliament

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his administration have been pushing for an anti-fake news law, and is tabling a Bill on it in Parliament this week.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his administration have been pushing for an anti-fake news law, and is tabling a Bill on it in Parliament this week. PHOTO: REUTERS

Malaysia's Parliament will table a Bill to fight fake news when it resumes today for its last session before the next general election.

The Parliament's order paper released yesterday listed the Anti-Fake News Bill as the first item on a list of government Bills to be presented for first reading.

A controversial proposal to redraw electoral boundaries will also be tabled this week.

Prime Minister Najib Razak and his administration have been pushing for the anti-fake news law, with government officials coming up with a draft for the new law in less than two months. The proposed Anti-Fake News Bill received Cabinet approval last Wednesday.

Critics have accused the government of ramming through the Bill, saying there has not been enough time to properly draft the provisions. They also questioned the need for a new law given existing laws that govern the spread of false information. Opposition politicians claim the law is intended to muffle dissent.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said, the de facto law minister who is leading the drafting of the Bill, said last week that the law is meant to "protect the people from fake news dumping and also from falling victim to fake news".

"However, the Bill would not block the people's freedom of expression as allocated by the Constitution," she said in a statement.

 
 
 

Earlier this month, Deputy Minister for Communications and Multimedia Jailani Johari warned the foreign media against publishing "fake news" linking Datuk Seri Najib to the scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The 13-party Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by Umno can easily pass the two pieces of legislation before the month-long Parliament sitting ends on April 5 due to its comfortable majority in Parliament.

The redelineation motion to approve new electoral boundaries will be debated on Wednesday in Parliament. The proposed new electoral boundaries have been widely criticised by both opposition lawmakers and analysts as gerrymandering.

Analysts have estimated that the extensive changes would hand BN 10 more federal seats. The new voting maps will come into effect for Malaysia's 14th general election, widely expected in May.

The voting maps were last changed nationwide in 2003, when BN was also accused of making the changes to its advantage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2018, with the headline 'Bills on electoral map, fake news to be tabled in Malaysian Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe