Anti-Fake News Bill passed in Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR: The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 was passed in the policy stage in the Dewan Rakyat today following a bloc vote, following days of heated debate.

The Bill, which seeks to formulate a new law to stop the spread of fake news which could threaten the country’s political stability and undermine public order and national security, was passed with 123 voting in favour and 64 against.

Kapar Member of Parliament G. Manivannan had called for the bloc voting.

It is understood that 10 Pas MPs voted in favour of the Bill.

Several amendments were made to the Bill, which were reducing the jail time for creating and spreading fake news from 10 years to six years, and replacing the word “knowingly” to “maliciously.”

The Bill will then be presented in the Dewan Negara.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, when winding up the debate on the Bill, said MPs from the opposition have misled the public and had refused to listen to the explanations given by the government using various mediums.

“I would like to stress this law is not intended to restrict the freedom of speech, but to restrict the dissemination of fake new, as clearly mentioned in the explanatory statement of the Bill.

“I was disappointed that the opposition MPs wasted the time given to debate on the Bill and belittled the government’s effort to introduce the law.

“Just like the Malay proverb ‘siapa yang makan cili, dia terasa pedasnya’, only those who spread fake news or intend to spread fake news, will be affected.

Azalina said briefings on the Bill were conducted to both Barisan Nasional and opposition MPs prior to the debate.

“However, as usual, as I mentioned in my press statement, the issue has been manipulated.”

Azalina said, based her observation during the debates, there were 12 main issues outlined by the MPs.

“These included claims that the Bill was meant to restrict freedom of speech; that the government is rushing to introduce the law; that the Bill is draconian and meant to prepare for the general election; redundancy of law; fake news definition; draconian punishment; who defines fake news and selective prosecution,” she said.

The first reading of the Bill on March 26 (Monday), saw a proposed a maximum fine of RM500,000, imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both, upon conviction for creating or spreading fake news.

The Bill, provided that any person who, by any means, creates, offers, publishes, prints, distributes, circulates or disseminates any fake news or publication containing fake news is liable to punishment.