Anti-Fake News Law First on Committee’s Agenda

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The newly set up Committee on Institutional Reforms will prioritise the abolishment of Anti-Fake News Act 2018, said National Human Rights Society (Hakam) chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

Ambiga, who was today announced as a member part of the committee, revealed this during an interview with the BFM business radio station this morning.

“Let me tell you my position. The Anti-Fake News Act has to be repealed in total,” said Ambiga in the interview.

“We know the circumstances in which the act was passed […] there is no reason to have a fake news and anti-fake news act,” she said.

Lim Huey Teng/Malaysiakini

“I think, once the relevant committee has been set up to review the existing laws that have to be repealed, then the Anti-Fake News Act would probably be the first on the list,” she said.

“Pakatan Harapan made a statement that they are going to look at these oppressive laws and they had talked about them for a long time. So, I would be very surprised if that is not the first thing on the agenda,” she added.

Beside Ambiga, retired Court of Appeal judge KC Vohrah, Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Mah Weng Kwai, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) president and retired brigadier general Mohd Arshad Raji and Universiti Malaya law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi have also been appointed to the committee.

The committee’s exact scope has not yet been outlined.

Government to ‘define’

The Anti-Fake News Act 2018, enacted in April by the previous BN government, carries a jail term of up to six years and a fine of up to RM500,000.

Critics say the punitive measures are excessive while there is no clear definition of what is to be considered fake news. They add the legislation may be used by the government to clamp down on dissenting views.

On May 13, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad stated his new government would define clearly what constituted fake news and what did not.

He said while the new government would not restrict the press, he warned that any efforts to instigate the people would not be tolerated.

“Fake news laws will be given clear definitions so that news companies know what is fake news and what is not fake news.”

Mahathir did not specify if he plans to repeal or amend the existing law on fake news or craft a new one.

Yesterday, he elaborated the government would study whether to repeal or keep the anti-fake news legislation. – Malaysiakini