Anti-Fake News Act repealed despite fierce resistance

Jerry Choong
Throughout the six-hour debate in the Dewan Rakyat, BN and PAS MPs had strongly argued that the Anti-Fake News Bill be retained. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 — The controversial Anti-Fake News Act 2018 was finally repealed today, despite resistance from Opposition members, just over four months after it was first passed.

Throughout the six-hour debate in the Dewan Rakyat, Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS MPs had strongly argued that the Act be retained.

This is in stark contrast to their unusually subdued manners throughout this Parliamentary session whenever Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof or his deputy Nga Kor Ming called for motion votes, which was generally met with silence from the Opposition.

Kubang Kerian MP and PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man argued the Act ought to be maintained, saying there has been too many cases of simply getting rid of the old for the new.

“Getting rid of the Act will involve costs which must be borne by the people. Although it is true many Acts have been misused before, repealing it should not be the main focus but instead sticking to the right track,” he said.

When questioned by Jelutong MP RSN Rayer if he was not worried that the Act would have been used to oppress the Opposition had BN won the 14th general election, Tuan Ibrahim said there is nothing to worry about if one did not spread fake news, therefore removing the need to repeal the Act.

Meanwhile, Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said demanded proof of instances where the Act was misused.

“When was the Act used for political prosecution, since we have other legislations to address that? Rather the Act was created due to social media.

“The greatest challenge faced is time [in responding to viral news]. Social media is a weapon that can cause discontent throughout the world,” she said.

Azalina added that the Act is needed as legislation including the Penal Code or the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 could not properly handle social media-related cases since it spreads very quickly.

The Act was passed on April 2 with 123 votes in support and 64 votes against it. It carries a punishment of up to six years imprisonment and a fine of up to RM500,000 for spreading fake news.

The legislation was widely opposed by the then-Opposition coalition as well as civil society groups who were concerned its opaque nature could end up being used as a tool to stifle political and social dissent.

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