KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — Politicians should act like “gentlemen” in the 14th general election (GE14) and not resort to below-the-belt methods like spreading fake news, caretaker prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
Najib said he was not “optimistic” that there would be no fake news during GE14, having alluded to past experiences where the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was allegedly falsely accused of cheating during elections with phantom voters.
“If we want to compete, compete as a gentleman, compete like a man, don’t compete below the belt.
“That is what I hope. Because we want to develop a mature democracy. We can criticise the government, but don’t spread fake news,” he said at the launch of the inaugural National Journalists’ Day here.
In the same speech, Najib spoke of the alleged proliferation of multiple “fake stories” that sometimes did not make sense during the “silly” election season.
He described how BN was previously accused of bringing 40,000 Bangladeshis into Malaysia to become “phantom voters” and allegations of blackouts during elections, saying that these were untrue.
Najib said there was no such phantom voters as 1,000 jumbo jets would have been required to bring in 40,000 people, reiterating that there were no such incidents.
He added that it was “impossible” to have “phantom voters”, citing Malaysia's “foolproof” electoral system where the federal opposition's representatives can be present to observe the elections and where voters would have to present their identity cards (ICs).
“I am hairan (puzzled) that the urban intellects also swallowed these stories,” he said.
Regarding the allegations of electricity disruptions during vote-counting in past elections, Najib said:
“Polling centres close at 5pm, it is still bright, the ballots can be seen clearly even without fire. I guarantee blackouts cannot stop the counting of ballot boxes.”
The BN chairman claimed these were all clear examples that showed the need for a law against fake news.
This comes as Najib announced that the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 had been gazetted today after receiving royal assent.
The law, which penalises the creation or distribution of fake news with a maximum fine of RM500,000 or a maximum six-year jail term, or both, takes effect today.
The GE14 campaign period is just weeks away and will start with nomination day on April 28. May 9 will be polling day.