PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will stick by its decision to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act and will not follow its neighbour Singapore in its bid to tackle "online falsehoods".
While acknowledging that fake news can be damaging, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the onus is on the country and its people to manage the spread of such material.
"We made a promise to the people that we would do away with the Anti-Fake News law. That is what the people wanted and we respect the people who voted us into power.
"We understand how social media can be abused. For us, that means we have to learn how to handle fake news," said Dr Mahathir in a question-and-answer session during a joint press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong here Tuesday (April 9).
The press conference was held following Lee's visit to Putrajaya as part of the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders' Annual Retreat.
Both leaders were asked for their comments on Singapore's proposed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill (Pofma).
Dr Mahathir added that having such a law would open it for abuse by the government.
"When you have a law to prevent people from airing views, then we are afraid that the government itself may abuse it, as has happened in the past.
"We do not want any government, whether this or the next one, to abuse such law.
"It (fake news) may be difficult to handle, but we can accept the challenge and will handle it," said Dr Mahathir.
Lee defended his government's decision to introduce the Bill, despite criticisms from groups such as Reporters Without Borders.
"It is not just Singapore who is legislating this. France and Germany have done it. Australia introduced something similar and very draconian. Singapore has had to do it, and we have we have deliberated it for almost two years.
"I am not surprised Reporters Without Borders have criticised it, as they have criticised many things about Singapore's media management.
"But what we have done has worked in Singapore, and it is our objective to continue to do things which will work for Singapore," said Lee.
The Anti-Fake News Act was passed in April during the previous administration.
The present Pakatan Harapan government then pushed for a repeal for the Act in Parliament.
Although the repeal was passed in the Dewan Rakyat, it was rejected by the Dewan Negara in September.