Malaysia's anti-fake news legislation becomes law, is now enforceable

Prime Minister Najib Razak said on April 11 that the Bill on anti-fake news has received assent from the Malaysian King and was gazetted on Wednesday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has gazetted the controversial Anti-Fake News Act 2018, meaning it has become law and is enforceable.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Wednesday (April 11) that the Bill on anti-fake news has received assent from the Malaysian King and was gazetted on Wednesday, New Straits Times quoted him as saying.

The documents related to the Act have been uploaded on the Federal Gazette website, a check by Malaysiakini news site found.

The Bill was fast-tracked in Parliament by the government last week although it was attacked by the opposition and political activists who feared it would be used to muzzle opinion that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition disagreed with.

There are also concerns that BN will use the law to stop criticisms against it in the ongoing election season.

Datuk Seri Najib said the new law would not curtail the freedom of journalists.

"I know that some journalists are worried that this new Act will be used to restrict their freedom in reporting," he said at the inaugural National Journalists' Day celebration.

"But I would like to say that this is not the right view as the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, through Section 8A, has already made it an offence to publish any fake news," he added, as quoted by The Star newspaper.

Germany passed its anti-fake news law in January with the authorities given the powers to fine social media giants up to €50 million (S$81.3 million) if they do not promptly remove illegal content from their sites.

Other countries such as Singapore and the Philippines are mulling over anti-fake news laws too.

The Malaysian Bill was passed on April 2 in Parliament's Lower House with 123 votes for and 64 votes against after its second reading..

The Malaysian anti-fake news legislation carries stiff punishments of up to six years in prison and a maximum fine of RM500,000 (S$170,000).

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, Malaysia's de facto law minister overseeing the Bill's path into legislation, has said the law is not intended to restrict freedom of speech but to restrict the dissemination of fake news.

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