Fake news law ready in two weeks

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman

THE final draft of a proposed law to curb fake news will be ready in two weeks, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

She said a version of the draft was being circulated among the ministers now and would be presented to Cabinet soon.

“We will also have to consider whether we have enough time in this Parliament meeting to bring this up,” she told reporters after the opening of the first meeting of the sixth term of the 13th Parliament yesterday.

Azalina observed that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s speech has placed a lot of emphasis on new approaches to fight negative elements that threatened Malaysia’s stability and security, including information in the social media.

In his speech, Sultan Muhammad V also expressed support for the proposal to formulate legislation to address the spread of fake news and slander on social media, saying the medium was most influential in shaping the values and culture of a society.

Azalina said it should be noted that existing laws have differences in terms of offences related to social media usage and the issue of cross jurisdiction of powers.

“We need a clear definition of fake news in the law. Currently, this is not available,” she said, adding that amendments to other laws would depend on what was included in the proposed law.

It was reported that political parties have deployed their communications arsenal to fight fake news, which was already flooding cyberspace and was expected to worsen as the general election draws near.

Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications deputy director Datuk Eric See-To said the coalition would issue statements or distribute videos via social media platforms quickly to counter allegations.

MCA publicity spokesman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker said one way to counter fake news was to immediately report them to the relevant authorities, such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau said a publicity team has been formed to tackle any fake news that may be used in the coming general election.

PKR communication chief Fahmi Fadzil described the fake news phenomenon as “misinformation with malicious political intent”, adding that a neutral body should be formed to tackle the problem.

DAP assistant national publicity secretary Yeo Bee Yin said the only way for the party to counter fake news was to flood social media with the party’s viewpoints.

It was reported that several countries, such as Britain and France, were also taking measures to combat the growing phenomenon of fake news.

In January, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that her government was setting up a dedicated national security unit to tackle fake news and disinformation.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron announced in his New Year’s Eve address that he would overhaul French media legislation to fight the spread of fake news, calling it a threat to liberal democracies.

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