Dewan Negara passes Anti-Fake News Bill

KUALA LUMPUR: The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 is closer to becoming law after Dewan Negara passed it yesterday by a majority voice vote. The bill, approved by Dewan Rakyat on Monday, will now be forwarded to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong for the royal assent before being gazetted as law.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the government’s introduction of the bill just before the upcoming 14th general election (GE14) was coincidental.

“Many camps have argued that they are related. [But] I would say it is coincidental,” she said in response to questions by senators.

On the usage of the word “fake” instead of “false” in the bill, Azalina said it was because “fake” has a wider scope, which is relevant in this age where information can be shared in numerous formats including audio, graphic and text.

Azalina said the bill underlines three criteria that constitute an offence, namely the definition of fake news, action of producing or sharing the fake news, and the presence of malicious intent when undertaking said action.

Offenders under the act could face jail terms of up to six years and a fine of up to RM500,000.

Azalina said the new law would allow immediate relief to those affected by fake news as they can make an ex parte application for an interim order for the publication’s removal from media platforms. The person affected by the order may opt for a legal recourse in 14 days to set aside the order.

But the stay application is not applicable if the interim order was obtained by the government on the grounds of public safety or national security. Azalina said the anti-fake news legislation can be read independently or alongside existing laws, such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

“Unlike the PPPA, there is no licence required to create a fake account on a social media platform. The victim can resort to other laws such as the Defamation Act, but the news will still be on the [Internet] superhighway during the proceedings,” said Azalina.