KUALA LUMPUR: A Barisan Nasional (BN) MP today urged the government not to be “rash” and repeal the Anti-Fake News law, but to instead make amendments where necessary.
Azalina Othman Said (BN-Pengerang) said the law was needed as existing laws such as the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 were not able to handle cases involving fake accounts on social media.
Azalina proposed that the matter could be brought to a Special Select Committee for the Consideration of Bills, and be discussed with social media experts, law experts, as well as the government agencies directly or indirectly involved, to see how the law could be used to help social media.
“Maybe, you can make amendments to the act. If you say the fine is high – it is supposed to be a deterrent – then reduce the fine.
“If you say the act is cruel and draconian, then tweak the law to make the amendments,” she said when debating the motion on the repeal of the law in the Dewan Rakyat today. It was tabled for second reading.
The Anti-Fake News Act was gazetted in April under the Barisan Nasional government, with Azalina, the then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, responsible for tabling it.
Under the act, anyone found guilty of producing or disseminating fake news can be fined up to RM500,000, handed a maximum six-year imprisonment or both, upon conviction.
Then opposition lawmakers and civil society groups had opposed the act, which was bulldozed through just before the May 9 polls, saying it would be abused to muffle dissent, especially since the definition of “fake news” was vague. They also claimed the BN government had a history of abusing laws to suit its interests.
Azalina also said the government should be focusing on the issue of unilateral conversion, under Section 88A of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, which, she said, was more important.
“If the deputy minister says the Anti-Fake News law is draconian, there are many more laws that are said to be more draconian.
“Now that you have won and you have the majority, don’t take advantage. The speaker must also be fair.
“The government must remember, laws are formulated to protect and help the rakyat. There are already those out there who are fighting over fake news in social media,” she claimed.