The Anti-Fake News Bill Was Tabled In The Parliament Today. Here's All You Need To Know

Once convicted, Malaysians and non-Malaysians may be subjected to a RM500,000 fine, 10 years in prison, or both.

Cover image via Altermidya

Earlier today, 26 March, the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 was tabled at the Dewan Rakyat for its first reading

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported that the bill defines fake news 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 bill received cabinet approval last week.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman said the bill was drawn up "in the interests of the people"

According to FMT, Azalina claimed that the bill would not affect freedom of speech.

She also said that it will prevent people from being misinformed and flooded with fabricated news.

The proposed bill seeks tough punishment on offenders if convicted

An offender can be fined up to RM500,000 with an additional RM3,000 every day the offence is continued, reported FMT.

Furthermore, any person found guilty of creating, offering, publishing, distributing, circulating or disseminating, or providing financial assistance to facilitate the spread of fake news is subjected to a maximum fine of RM500,000, a 10-year jail sentence, or both.

Malay Mail Online listed a few scenarios where a person can be found guilty under the proposed bill

Here are some of the scenarios that were reportedly listed in the proposed bill:

  • A person is guilty if someone else republished "fake news" from said person without knowing its authenticity.
  • A person can be charged if he fabricated information in an article claiming that someone else, "a well-known businessman", has obtained business contracts by offering bribes.
  • It is also punishable if a person informs the public via a public forum that the "well-known businessman" had misused funds collected for charitable purposes, while knowing that the information is false.

In Section 3 of the proposed bill, it was stated that the Act has "extra-territorial application" on foreign "fake news"

Section 3(1) of the bill states that the Act is applicable to any person, "whatever his nationality or citizenship", if the offence is committed within Malaysia.

It will also be applicable to "fake news" concerning either Malaysia or a Malaysian citizen. 

According to Malay Mail Online, this section considers anyone who committed the offence abroad as having committed it within Malaysia.

Many have since raised concerns over this section of the proposed bill, including Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming

In a tweet, Ong questioned if the bill will be used against non-Malaysian journalists and made reference to 1MDB-related news.

Previously, FMT reported Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Jailani Johari as saying that any information related to 1MDB unverified by the government is considered fake news.

Some netizens also criticised the bill, saying that it may cause diplomatic crises and it will "never stand the test outside of Malaysia"

One netizen doubted the possibility of the Malaysian government going after foreign citizens who may have committed the offence.

Image via Twitter

Another netizen warned the possible diplomatic crises that may arise from this bill, as it involves the conviction of foreign citizens.

Image via Twitter

One netizen also wrote that charging an "outsider" would require the "fake news" involved to be proven false.

Image via Twitter

While the proposed bill awaits a parliamentary debate, Azalina said there will be a briefing session for MPs from both Barisan Nasional and the opposition

According to The Star, Azalina will meet with members of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club, a loose caucus in the Dewan Rakyat, after the bill was tabled earlier today.

She will also meet with opposition MPs within the next two days.

What do you think about the anti-fake news bill? Let us know in the comments below.

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