Salleh decries ‘false’ coverage on anti-fake news law

PETALING JAYA: Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak has assured that those who report “conscientiously and truthfully” according to proper journalistic protocols will not be affected by the Anti-Fake News Act that was passed by the Dewan Rakyat today.

He said some news coverage critical of the legislation, which was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on March 26, was misleading and in certain instances completely false.

He said the government would not itself decide what is fake news in any particular case but will let the courts decide instead.

“The only people that need to be afraid are those that broadcast or pass on fake news – or lies – to you and me.

“If we are criticised for being on the side of truth, so be it,” he said in a statement today.

Salleh then gave the example of how some international media had made serious mistakes when reporting on Malaysia.

He said one international news agency reported that the government was backing a parliamentary bill which would allow harsh shariah punishments, such as amputations for theft and stoning for adultery.

“This was completely false, as the agency had later admitted.

“They even corrected their story, but by that time, the false report had gone around the world – literally – and was printed in papers and published online across the continents.

“No other corrections were published, and libel laws are not framed to deal with this kind of misinformation, because no person in particular was being defamed,” he said.

Salleh said another news agency recently reported that the government had shut down The Malaysian Insider in 2016 when in fact it was the owner of the news portal that had decided to close the website for commercial reasons.

Salleh also took the South China Morning Post (SCMP) to task for reporting recently that the line-up of VIPs coming to Malaysia had “come to a crawl” and that Malaysia’s international standing risked taking a fall under Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Calling it “a prime example of fake news”, he said there was a widely observed practice that foreign leaders do not make official visits to a country just before an election for fear of being seen to interfere in the country’s internal democratic process.

He added that Putrajaya had also declined foreign visits for that reason.

Salleh, who is also the Umno treasurer, then listed a number of foreign leaders who were welcomed by Najib in Malaysia and those that officially received him overseas in the last year.

He also pointed out that Najib was the only Asean leader to be invited to give a keynote address at the Asean-Australia Counter-Terrorism Conference in Sydney last month.

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