Govt will use existing laws to deal with fake news

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will use existing laws to deal with fake news, Parliament was told.

"The Anti-Fake News Act was finally abolished on Jan 30 this year.

"In relation to this, any fake news or reports, including those on social media, will be dealt with existing laws such as the Penal Code, Printing and Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Multimedia and Communications Act," said Deputy Education Minister Senator Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said when answering a question raised by Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (BN-Arau) in Dewan Rakyat on Monday. (Nov 16).

Mah, who was answering on behalf of the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, said that the government would identify other suitable approaches to deal with fake news and to ensure that the rakyat is provided with accurate information.

"Does the government agree that the country is now at the bottom of the rung compared to other countries that have anti-fake news laws?

"In comparison, Singapore has the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act to deal with fake and manipulated news," Shahidan said, adding that he would accept a written reply from Mah.

Shahidan had asked if the government would consider reviving the Anti-Fake News Act, particularly to deal with false information related to Covid-19.

Earlier, Mah informed the House that he was answering the question on behalf of the Communications and Multimedia Ministry as minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah was barred from entering Parliament as he took his mandatory Covid-19 test outside the stipulated time frame while his deputy had a prior engagement elsewhere.

Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of law Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the government may consider reintroducing the anti-fake news laws if the need arises.

The Anti-Fake News Act was passed by the Barisan Nasional administration a month before the 14th General Election in May 2018.

Under the law, those found guilty of spreading what authorities deemed as fake news could be jailed for up to six years and fined up to RM500,000.

After coming to power, the Pakatan Harapan government tabled a Bill to repeal the law in August 2018 but it hit a roadblock after the Senate with the Barisan majority rejected it in December that year.

Pakatan made a second attempt at doing away with the law in October 2019 after a cooling-off period of one year under Article 68 of the Federal Constitution was over.

Article 68 of the Federal Constitution allows the government to table a Bill rejected by the upper house after the cooling-off period.

The Bill to repeal the Act was then passed by Dewan Rakyat and finally abolished in December last year after getting the nod from the Senate.

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