Malaysia proposes 10-year jail term for hate news offenders

Malaysian government has proposed a law to combat “fake news” which could see offenders jailed for 10 years

Opposition MP Charles Santiago said the bill was “a powerful weapon for the government to silence dissent in the country, ahead of the elections”

Any person found guilty of creating or disseminating what authorities deem to be fake news can be punished with a maximum 10 years in jail or a fine of up to $130,000.

The bill also allows for anyone who breaks the law outside the country with what authorities deem to be “fake news” concerning Malaysia to face punishment in Malaysia.

Critics say the anti-fake news bill will add to a range of repressive laws — including a sedition law, a press and publications act, an official secrets act and a security act — that have been used against critics, violated freedom of expression and undermined media freedom.

Despite the concerns, cabinet minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar insisted the law “will not be abused”, adding: “It is not aimed at silencing critics.”

The bill must be approved by a majority in the 222-seat lower House and also in the upper House, and this is likely as both chambers are government-controlled.

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