Malaysian Government on March 26, 2018 tabled a bill in parliament to outlaw fake news proposing hefty fines and 10 years in jail for publishers of fake news.
The bill comes ahead of the General Elections which are expected to be held in next few weeks. The elections, which were supposed to be held in August 2018, have been preponed as Prime Minister Najib Razak faces widespread criticism over a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal (1MDB scandal) involving an indebted state fund.
Anti-Fake News Bill
• The Bill defines fake news as “news, information, data or reports which is or are wholly or partly false” and includes features, visuals and audio recordings.
• Under the Anti-Fake News Bill, anyone who publishes fake news could face fines of up to 500000 ringgit (USD 128140), up to 10 years in jail, or both.
• It seeks to safeguard the public against the rise of fake news while ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution.
• The law also covers digital publications and social media posts as well.
• It also applies to offenders outside Malaysia, including foreigners, as long as Malaysia or a Malaysian citizens are affected.
However, the Bill has been opposed by media persons and others who view the Bill as an attack on the press and an attempt to instil fear among the people.
The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal was exposed by foreign media and news blogs in 2015. Despite several accusations, PM Najib Razak has consistently denied of any wrongdoing.
The Malaysian government has acted harshly against media reporting on 1MDB scandal. It suspended 'The Edge' newspaper in 2015 and blocked other websites for publishing stories of Najib’s role in the scandal.
Transactions related to 1MDB are under investigation in six countries including the United States, where the Department of Justice launched the civil cases to recover assets linked to the fund after thorough investigations.
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