Anti-fake news Act in Malaysia scrapped

Singapore has enacted some of the most wide-reaching anti-fake news legislation in the world. Photo: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PETALING JAYA, Dec 20, 2019, The Star/Asia News Network. Malaysia has scrapped the Anti-Fake News Act – a law criminalising fake news – on the second attempt after the Senate passed it. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said the repeal was in accordance with the government’s commitment to abolish draconian laws and ensure the media has the freedom to “check and balance” the administration, The Straits Times reported.

“This tyranny is history that we do not want to repeat. We cannot enslave humans through draconian laws because freedom is the most precious thing,” he said during the winding-up session on Thursday (Dec 19).

Mr Hanipa told Bernama news agency that the existing laws were adequate and could be amended should they be insufficient to tackle fake news.

This was Pakatan Harapan’s second attempt at abolishing the controversial Act introduced by Barisan Nasional just before the 14th General Election in May last year.

Under the law, those found guilty of spreading what the authorities deemed as fake news could be jailed for up to six years and fined up to RM500,000 (S$164,000).

In August 2018, the Dewan Rakyat passed the Bill to repeal the Act, but it hit a roadblock in the Senate when the Barisan majority rejected it late last year.

This year in October, the Bill to repeal the Act was tabled again, after a cooling-off period of one year under Article 68 of the Federal Constitution was over.

Article 68 of the Federal Constitution allows the government to table a Bill rejected by the Upper House after the cooling-off period.

The Bill to repeal the Act was then passed on Oct 9 when 92 MPs voted for the law to be abolished, while 51 were against it.

The Bill was then tabled in the Dewan Negara, which can block a Bill only once.

Unlike the first time, the Bill will be presented to the King for assent, regardless of how the Upper House votes.

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