Malaysia’s draft law Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 passed

Reuters World News reports that Malaysia outlaws ‘fake news’; sets jail of up to six yearsnoting that ‘The government said the law would not impinge on freedom of speech and cases under it would be handled through an independent court process.’ Critics say it is aimed at restricting dissent before the forthcoming general election. Hillary Grigonis asks in Digital Trends Should fake news be illegal? Malaysia could be among the first to penalize it. Grigonis goes on to say that ‘Critics, however, are voicing concern over the bill’s potential impact on free speech’ and quotes Amnesty International’s director for the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions, James Gomez, as calling it a ‘vaguely worded, catch-all bill that can be — and will be — used to crack down on peaceful government critics. 

Cnet’s Daniel Van Boom notes that fake news is a problem, but adds that experts say that the new law is a dangerous one, quoting David Kay, clinical professor of law at the University of California: ‘This legislation is problematic on so many different levels’ … ‘The definition of fake news is so broad it seems like the government could decide anything could be fake news. On top of that, it has these extraordinarily harsh penalties.’ Van Bloom notes that the law applies overseas, and could affect Malaysians outside the country, or foreign journalists when they visit Malaysia if they wrote or share stories categorised as fake news.