Ahead of polls, Malaysian cabinet approves fake news Bill

Ahead of polls, Malaysian cabinet approves fake news Bill

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian cabinet has approved a controversial Bill to counter fake news and plans to table it in parliament next week amid fears from the opposition that it will be used to crack down on dissent ahead of looming polls.

In a statement on Wednesday (Mar 21), Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Azalina Othman said the Bill sends the message that the government will not compromise when it comes to matters concerning public order and national security.

"This Bill was drafted for the benefit of the general public to protect the people from fake news and becoming victims of fake news," she said.

"However, the Bill does not restrict the right to freedom of expression of the people as provided under the federal constitution in any way."

The minister said there would be a briefing session for members of parliament from ruling coalition Barisan Nasional as well as from the opposition in the near future.

Critics have questioned the need for the Bill, with human rights advocates worried it could infringe on free speech.

The opposition believes that with elections due by August, the government is pushing through the Bill to its advantage. 

Prime Minister Najib Razak has said that Barisan Nasional was the victim of online slander and "fake news" in the last general elections, when the coalition failed to win back the two-thirds majority it first lost in 2008 after decades in power.

Source: CNA/nc