Tackle fake news without hindering the truth, says Dr M

Dr Mahathir Mohamad addresses the Lawasia conference in Petaling Jaya today. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there is a need to tackle the spread of fake news without shackling the truth.

Saying that he personally feels the need to rein in false news, Mahathir added that whether laws are good or bad is determined by how it is used by authorities.

“The anti-fake news law is good because on social media you find a lot of wrong views coming out and they affect the thinking of the people,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the Lawasia conference here today.

He said people have misused social media and the alternative media – where there are no editors to screen content – to spread fake news which could cause problems in the society by stirring controversies.

“So how do you sift through bad and good news? That is a problem that we’re faced with today. Frankly, I think we need to curb somewhat the fake news but we have to do that without also curbing true news.”

Mahathir said Malaysians, as a whole need, to be more sophisticated as a community and not abuse the Internet and social media.

Instead, he said it would be better if Malaysians were to utilise this platform for the benefit of the nation.

Last month, Putrajaya reiterated its commitment to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act, more than a year after the motion to abolish it was shot down in the Dewan Negara.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong had said the government would table a new bill to abolish the act in the next parliament sitting as the one-year cooling period provided for under Article 68 of the constitution was now over.

Meanwhile, Singapore has introduced a law against fake news, which came into effect on Wednesday, after the law was passed earlier this year following a public consultation.

Rights groups in the republic have warned that the law may stifle free speech, and opposition politicians have said it could give the government too much power as elections loom.