Malaysia's Bill on fake news to be tabled next week

Malaysia's de facto Law Minister Azalina Othman said that a briefing on the matter would be held for lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and the opposition.
Malaysia's de facto Law Minister Azalina Othman said that a briefing on the matter would be held for lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and the opposition.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Proposed law not meant to curb freedom of speech, says minister

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

Datuk Seri Azalina, who is the de facto Law Minister, said yesterday that a briefing on the matter would be held for lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and the opposition, The Star reported.

She added that 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, to protect them from being misinformed and 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."

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 the 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.

CLEAR SIGNAL

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.

MINISTER IN THE PRIME MINISTER'S DEPARTMENT AZALINA OTHMAN SAID

"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 added.

Online watchdog, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, has proposed that fake news be punishable with fines of up to RM500,000 (S$168,000) 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 yesterday said any news related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, "other than information which is confirmed by the authorities", should be considered 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 (official transcripts) 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.

As such, information other than what has been confirmed by the authorities "will be acknowledged as false information", he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Malaysia's Bill on fake news to be tabled next week'. Print Edition | Subscribe