Reports by MARTIN CARVALHO, HEMANANTHANI SIVANANDAM, RAHIMY RAHIM and LOSHANA K SHAGAR
THE Anti-Fake News Act, which critics claimed was unnecessary and muzzled press freedom as well as being bulldozed through Parliament, was abolished after a three-hour debate.
The repeal of the Act, which came into effect on April 11, days before the 14th General Election, was carried out by a simple voice vote.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said the Act was unnecessary as there were sufficient laws to deal with fake news.
“We don't need new legislation. We already have existing laws, such as the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and others that can deal with this issue,” he told lawmakers in his winding-up.
The police and enforcement agencies, said Mohamed Hanipa, should be further empowered to deal with the emergence of fake news.
“During Barisan Nasional’s time, the police were used to protect them. They were not used to fight crime,” he alleged.
“Now, with the Pakatan Harapan government, the police will be used to fight crime and not cover us,” he told Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (BN-Pengerang), who had been instrumental in overseeing the passing of the Act when she was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
However, he agreed with Azalina that fake social media accounts were a problem, but said this could be dealt with by authorities empowered by technology.
Technology, said Mohamed Hanipa, must be upgraded to keep up with the times, making it easier for enforcement authorities to trace fake accounts.
“The solution isn’t merely about having legislations. It should be holistic – by empowering enforcement authorities and upgrading technology,” he said, adding that too many legislations would only cause an increase in costs for the government.
Earlier, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (PH-Ledang) had suggested for a taskforce comprising media experts to combat fake news instead.
Syed Ibrahim said, for example, Belgium had set up such a taskforce to handle the problem.
He also supported the online fact-checking website sebenarnya.my introduced by the previous Barisan government.
Syed Ibrahim, however, warned that this should not be misused for propaganda by the Pakatan government. Only 12 lawmakers debated the Bill to repeal the contentious Act.
The Anti-Fake News Act was passed by Dewan Rakyat on April 2 following two days of fierce debates.
The Bill was passed the following day by Dewan Negara which had sat concurrently as Dewan Rakyat at that time.
The Dewan Rakyat is adjourned sine die.