Govt proposes 10 years’ jail for fake news offenders

It prescribes extraterritorial application to foreigners and Malaysians, as long as the content involves Malaysia

Pic By HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

The government yesterday tabled the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 that carries a maximum fine of RM500,000, or up to 10 years’ jail, or both for offenders as the authority seeks to clamp down on the spread of unverified news.

The proposed law seeks to penalise those who “create, offer, circulate, print and publish fake news or publications containing fake news with a jail term of up to 10 years, a maximum fine of RM500,000, or both.

Under the proposed legislation, parties that provide financial assistance for the purposes of committing or facilitating fake news, as well as failing to carry out the duty to remove publication containing the false news, could face a similar penalty.

Tabled for the first time in the Dewan Rakyat, the bill defines fake news as any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false.

The bill reads fake news can be in the form of features including visuals or audio recordings, as well as in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.

The proposed law was tabled as the country inches closer to the 14th General Election, expected to be the fiercest in the country’s electoral history.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said who tabled the bill said the proposed legi slature was endorsed by the Cabinet last week.

She said the proposed law was intended as a preventive measure against the spread of unverified or fake news.

“The bill was drawn up in the interest of the people in order to protect them from being misinformed and f looded with unverified news,” Azalina said.

She said the law, when passed, would not affect the people’s freedom of speech.

The proposed bill also provides the power for the courts to order the removal of any publication medium, including social media platforms.

“Any person affected by a publication containing fake news may apply ex parte to the court for an order for the removal of such publication.

“Failure to comply with an order made by court shall be punishable as a contempt of court,” according to the bill.

The bill also gave several explicit examples of instances where fake news is produced, including reproductions of unverified allegations from blog posts.

“Those that offer false information, fabricate information, give false speech about someone, and make untrue claims about someone are also considered committing offence,” it said.

The bill prescribes extraterritorial application to both foreigners and Malaysian citizens, as long as the content involves Malaysia.

“This act shall apply if, for the offence in question, the fake news concerns Malaysia or the person affected by the commision of the offence is a Malaysian.

“He may be dealt with in respect of such offence as if the offence was committed at any place within Malaysia,” according to the proposed bill.