Fake news bill proposes up to RM500,000 fine for offenders

The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat today.

KUALA LUMPUR: The controversial Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, which was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat today, proposed among others that an offender be fined up to RM500,000 with an additional RM3,000 every day if the offence is continued.

Under the proposed law, fake news is described as any news, information, data or report which is wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals, audio recordings or any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.

The proposed law states that any person found guilty of creating, offering, publishing, distributing, circulating or disseminating any fake news is liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.

A further fine not exceeding RM3,000 daily will be imposed for the duration the offence is continued, to be committed after conviction.

It will also be an offence to directly or indirectly provide financial assistance to facilitate the spread of fake news or to abet the offence.

It would then be the duty of the person having within his possession, custody or control any publication containing fake news to immediately remove such publications.

The new law is reportedly to curb the spread of fake news while complementing existing legislation in a more holistic and effective way.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said said the bill was drawn up “in the interests of the people” in order “to protect them” from being misinformed and flooded with unverified news.

She said it would not affect freedom of speech.

The Anti-Fake News Bill was approved by the cabinet last week.

The opposition has been asking for the government to set up a special Parliament committee to formulate the bill. On Feb 4, Azalina said the stakeholders in the formation of the bill would comprise members of NGOs, lawyers, lecturers as well as MPs from Barisan Nasional and the opposition.

Threats to use the law have already been made, the latest being by Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Jailani Johari who said that any information related to 1MDB which had not been verified by the government would be considered fake news.

He said fake news was information that had been confirmed to be false, especially by the authorities or parties related to the news.

Two weeks ago, in a written reply in Dewan Rakyat, the communications and multimedia ministry said a total of 91 cases involving the dissemination and publication of fake news on social media were recorded last year.

A total of 54 cases were resolved while 11 cases were brought to court for further action.

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