Monday 23rd July 2018

Malaysia has announced it’s repealing its anti-fake news law

Anyone found contravening the law could face fines of up to $123,000 or ten years imprisonment. A YouTube user was charged under the Act earlier this year.
Jason Smith
by on 9th July 2018
Malaysia flag

Malaysia has announced it’s repealing the Anti-Fake News Act 2018.

The announcement was made in a letter sent by an Ambassador of Malaysia, Dato’ Amran Mohammed Zin, to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, on 11th June 2018.

According to the announcement, the repeal is underway however it hasn’t yet been finalized. According to an email sent by the Malaysian Ambassador, “a specific proposal is expected to be tabled during the upcoming Parliamentary session beginning on 16th July 2018”.

The Anti-Fake News Act 2018 has been subject to criticism since it came into effect earlier this year. Subsection 4(1) of the Act makes it an offence to “knowingly create, offer, publish, print, distribute, circulate or disseminate fake news”.

Subsection 4(3) also provides eight “illustrations” to clarify what it defines as fake news. Subsection 4(3)a states:

“A offers false information to B, for B to publish the information in B’s blog. B, not knowing that the information provided by A is false, publishes the information in his blog. A is guilty of an offence under this section. B is not guilty of an offence under this section”.

Subsection 3(1) deals with extra-territoriality and determines the legislation applies not only to Malaysian citizens but to “any person, whatever his nationality or citizenship”.

Meanwhile, subsection 3(2) determines the Act applies if the “fake news” concerns Malaysia, or “the person affected by the commission of the offence is a Malaysian citizen”.

Anyone found in contravention of the legislation can be fined up to $123,000 or sentenced to up to ten years imprisonment. Subsection 4(2) of the Act also determines that a person convicted of the aforementioned offences can be compelled by the Court to “apologise” to those affected.

Persons who refuse to remove “fake news” from a publication were also liable to pay a fine of up to $25,000.

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, a Danish citizen, was the first person to be charged under the new law. According to a video Sulamain published on YouTube, it took Malaysian police 50 minutes to respond to the shooting of a Palestinian lecturer and member of Hamas.

However, Sulamain’s report was contradicted by a report by Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police, Mohamad Fuzi Harun. Harun claimed the response time was eight minutes.

Subsequently, Sulamain apologized, declared the video was posted “in a moment of anger” and was fined roughly $2,500. Unable to pay the fine, he opted to spend one month in prison instead.

The term “fake news” was adopted into popular nomenclature following a Buzzfeed article from 2016 about a small town in Eastern Europe that was publishing information on the US election.