Malaysia's anti-fake news Bill to be tabled next week following Cabinet approval

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman said the proposed law is meant to be a preventive measure against the spread of unverified or fake news.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman said the proposed law is meant to be a preventive measure against the spread of unverified or fake news.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia’s proposed Anti-Fake News Bill has received Cabinet approval and will be tabled in Parliament next week, said the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said.

Datuk Seri Azalina, who is the de facto law minister, said on Wednesday (March 21) that a briefing on the matter would be held for lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and the Opposition, The Star reported.

Ms Azalina said the proposed law is meant to be a preventive measure against the spread of unverified or fake news. “It will also identify the types of offences that can be regarded as spreading fake news,” she said in a statement.

She added that the Bill was drawn up in the interests of the people in order to protect them from being misinformed and being flooded with unverified news. “The proposed law is not meant to stop them from their right to freedom of speech as stated in the Federal Constitution,” she said.

The opposition, however, has said it believes the fake news legislation is intended to muffle dissent and will be used selectively to weaken its election campaign in light of the country’s impending polls.

Ms Azalina said she hoped that all parties would accept the government’s efforts and not indulge in polemics. “The Bill will send a clear message that the Government will not compromise on any matter detrimental to the nation’s security and public order,” she said.

Online watchdog, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, has proposed that fake news be punishable with fines of up to RM500,000 and 10 years in jail.

The government last week met social media platform providers as part of its effort to draft the new law.

 
 

Meanwhile, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Jailani Johari on Wednesday said any news related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal “other than information which is confirmed by the authorities” should be considered as false information.

The 1MDB fund, set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak, is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries. Datuk Seri Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.

Datuk Seri Jailani said the fund was being investigated by the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers while investigative reports have been tabled to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which consists of government and opposition representatives, the Malaysian Insight reported.

“The proceedings have been done transparently. The Hansard can be read on the Parliament website. The PAC report has also been published and is readable on the same site, PAC’s proposals have been fully accepted and fully implemented by the government,” he said.

“In view of this, the government is of the stand that other than information which is confirmed by the authorities as mentioned, any information other than that will be acknowledged as false information,” he said.