KUALA LUMPUR: The Prime Minister has assured journalists that the new Anti-Fake News Act will not curtail their freedom.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said this even as he announced that the Act, which was passed by Dewan Rakyat on April 2, had been given the Royal assent and gazetted yesterday.
He said the Printing Presses and Publications Act already made it an offence for journalists to publish fake news.
“I know that some journalists are worried that this new Act will be used to restrict their freedom in reporting.
“But I would like to say that this is not the right view as the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 through Section 8A has already made it an offence to publish any fake news,” he said at the inaugural National Journalists’ Day event here yesterday.
Despite the present laws, Najib said curbing and controlling the spread of fake news was not effective and comprehensive due to the rapid development in technology.
The new legislation, he said, was to protect the people from fake news and act as a deterrent with everyone being made accountable whenever sharing information.
The Government, he said, had always given room and implemented measures for media freedom.
This, he said, was different from a former prime minister who ruled the country for 22 years, citing Ops Lalang which saw three newspapers – including The Star – being suspended during his tenure.
“In fact, this leader was also criticised by the Committee to Protect Journalists as being one of the 10 enemies of the press three years in a row in 1999, 2000 and 2001,” he said.
Najib reminded the people to be a “gentleman”, adding that while they were allowed to criticise the Government, they should not spread fake news to topple it.
Najib also announced that May 29 would now be recognised as the National Journalists’ Day in line with the edition of the first Malay newspaper – Utusan Melayu – on May 29, 1939.
Later, the country’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was honoured with the inaugural Tokoh Hawana award for his contributions in developing and promoting local journalism and media.
Also present were Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak, Star Media Group group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai, Star Media Group editor-in-chief Datuk Leanne Goh and other media practitioners.