Dewan Negara president Tan Sri SA Vigneswaran announced that the Bill was passed by a majority voice vote after 17 senators spoke during the debate on it.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, who tabled the Bill earlier yesterday, said during the winding-up of the debate that the government’s move to introduce the law would not restrict freedom of speech as it was only aimed at checking the dissemination of fake news.
“The laws often cited in this matter, such as the Penal Code, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, had been enacted in the 1990s or earlier and are unable to address the complex nature of the offences in line with the advancement of current technology,” she said.
She added that the move to table the Bill at the current session of Parliament was in accordance with the parliamentary calendar.
“People have asked why the Bill was tabled now. My answer (to them) is, if not now, when? If anyone had said that it has to do with the coming 14th general election, I must say that it has not because I do not know when the general election will be held.
“However, everyone knows when the general election has to be held, so the people are looking at the coincidence. In fact, the tabling of the Bill was inserted in the calendars of the current sessions of the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, that is in March and April,” she said.
She also said that the Bill would provide a clear message that the government would not compromise on the propagation of fake news which could be detrimental to public order or the country.
She added that the law was people-oriented and was for everyone.
“I will also like to stress that the Bill is quasi-criminal in the sense that while stating the offences relating to fake news, it also gives everyone the opportunity to obtain protection from the dissemination of fake news through a court order.
“The move (to introduce the law) is also in line with what the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Sultan Muhammad V) said, that the dissemination of fake news must be checked because it will have a negative influence on the people,” she said.
The Bill will now be forwarded to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong for the royal assent, before being gazetted as law.