Anti-fake news law gets Cabinet nod, to be tabled in Parliament next week

Azalina said the anti-fake news Bill, which was tabled in Cabinet today, is expected to go for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat next week. — Picture by Razak Ghazali
Azalina said the anti-fake news Bill, which was tabled in Cabinet today, is expected to go for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat next week. — Picture by Razak Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 ― The Cabinet has approved the draft of a proposed law against fake news, with the Bill to be tabled in Parliament next week, minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said today.

Azalina said the anti-fake news Bill, which was tabled in Cabinet today, is expected to go for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat next week.

A briefing session on the proposed law will be held for Barisan Nasional and federal opposition MPs soon, she said.

“The drafting of this Bill is intended to provide for several offences related to the circulation of fake news and measures to curb fake news.

“This Bill was drafted for public interest to protect citizens from the wave of fake news and from becoming victims of fake news.

“However, this Bill does not at all restrict the citizens' right to freedom of speech that is provided for under the Federal Constitution,” the de facto law minister said in a statement today.

Azalina said the federal government hoped that everyone would welcome this proposed law, stressing that the Bill gives a clear message that the government will not compromise with anything that could jeopardise public peace and national security.

A special committee to draft laws to curb fake news was formed on January 30, following an announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that new legislation was needed to curb the menace which threatens multiracial and multireligious Malaysia’s harmony.

The committee includes representatives from the police, Attorney-General's Chambers, National Security Council, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, the Legal Affairs Division, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, and also non-governmental organisations and MPs.

On February 7, Azalina had said the federal government is giving priority to the proposed anti-fake news law, because of the existence of organised groups attempting to spark riots and hatred on a global scale and fears that Malaysia would not be spared.

Azalina had then said it is unfair to claim that the ruling Barisan Nasional would use the new law as another tool to crack down on dissenters, saying that it would instead protect everyone as fake news also affect the federal Opposition.

On March 13, Azalina said the government had the day before met with representatives from the Asia Internet Coalition, as well as tech giant Google, social media platform providers like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter on the proposed anti-fake news law.

She had then said that the government received “positive response” during the discussion with social media platform providers, adding that the meeting showed the government's inclusive attitude and was meant to ensure that the Bill would be comprehensive.

If the proposed law against fake news is passed by the Dewan Rakyat which will sit until April 5, it will then have to be passed by the Dewan Negara and receive royal assent before it can become law. The Dewan Negara, which will for the first time sit simultaneously with the Dewan Rakyat, will also end its sitting on April 5.

The 14th general election must be held by this August, but can be called earlier.

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