Malaysia looks to repeal anti-fake news law again

Malaysia's Anti-Fake News Act was vastly criticised as stifling freedom of speech and restricting the media. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is attempting to once again repeal the anti-fake news law after it was rebuffed at the Senate last year, despite having passed the Lower House.

With the one-year cooling period now expired, the PH administration re-tabled the motion to repeal the law on Monday (Oct 7) at the House of Representatives.

The law, known as the Anti-Fake News Act, was bulldozed through by the previous Barisan Nasional government on the cusp of last year's May general election. It was vastly criticised as stifling freedom of speech and restricting the media.

The negative shroud over the Act centres on the definition of fake news, which has been lambasted as vague.

Under the law, fake news is defined as "any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas".

Critics have said that the lack of clarity in how the court would determine falsehoods would open this for wide interpretation and abuse.

The motion is to be debated in the current parliamentary sitting, which would end in November.

With PH controlling the Lower House, it is widely expected that a repeal would be approved again.

However, this time around, the repeal would be put into effect even if the Senate rejects it, as the Upper House can be bypassed under Article 68 of the Federal Constitution.

The law, once it receives approval for repeal the second time from the Lower House, can be presented to the King for assent.

Currently, measures to deter the spread of false information are also present in the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

PH lawmakers had strongly campaigned against the Act last year before the elections, and had promised upon coming to power that the law would be repealed.

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