Anti-fake news bill to have chilling effect on GE14

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Source: The Malaysian Insight

THE proposed anti-fake news law that was tabled in Dewan Rakyat yesterday will have a “chilling effect” on the 14th general election, said lawyer-cum-activist Ambiga Sreenevasan.

The former president of the Malaysian Bar said the media and the public will feel pressured about sharing information, adding that the law would have done its work to frighten Malaysians.

Ambiga said the anti-fake news law was being proposed to stop people from talking about the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal.

“There’s no other reason for the law. Many parts of the law are repeats of existing legislature other than the extra territorial portion.  

“This is meant to have a chilling effect on all of us and the press because elections are coming. They want to assure that all those moving this bill are protected.

“You wouldn’t need to do this if you have nothing to fear.

“They cannot keep on whittling away our rights. It’s so in-your-face that we cannot keep quiet any more. If we do, we risk having the elections stolen from us,” said Ambiga during the “GE14 will be stolen” forum at the KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last night.

DAP election strategist Dr Ong Kian Ming said the timing of the law doesn’t give the opposition much time to adjust its strategies.

“Our biggest fear is that the voters will be stopped from disseminating the truth while misleading information is being fed to them.  

“As a result of this law, some of the information we have on 1MDB (for instance) may not go as viral as it can as there will be fear among voters,” Ong said.

Ilham Centre director Hisommudin Bakar said many Malaysians are still unsure of the implications of the new law but it will impact alternative news sites that are being labeled as “anti-government”.

“The law, however, will have a psychological impact on social media users and cause them to be more careful before sharing information.

“This law will dampen the social media war zone during elections. During GE13, Pakatan Rakyat had the upper had in the social media war. Maybe this will even things out for both sides ahead of GE14,” said the researcher.

Putrajaya tabled the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 in Dewan Rakyat yesterday. According to the bill, offenders could be fined up to RM500,000 or face 10 years’ jail for spreading false news.

The bill defines “fake news” as “any news, information, data and reports, which is or wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas”.

Critics said the new law will create a climate of fear although Communications and Multimedia Minister Said Salleh Keruak told foreign journalists that reporting on 1MDB itself is not tantamount to “spreading fake news”. – March 27, 2018.