Malaysia: ‘fake news’ bill hastily approved amid outcry

Today, the Lower House of the Malaysian parliament approved a bill criminalizing ‘fake news’. Those found guilty under the bill could face fines of up to £87,000 (500,000 ringgit) and a maximum of six years in jail.

The move by the Malaysian parliament brings the law one step closer to passing. It will now be debated in the Senate, the debate taking place as early as Thursday this week. Once passed by both houses, the law could come into force within days.

Reacting to the news, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

“The Malaysian lawmakers didn’t wait long to pass a vaguely worded, catch-all bill that can be – and will be – used to crack down on peaceful government critics. This bill cynically uses new Twitter jargon to pursue an old policy: criminalising free speech.

“The law which could be implemented within days doesn’t only impose tough penalties and gives arbitrary arrest powers for police but also allows charges to be brought against other countries’ citizens. It’s an overt assault on freedom of expression.”

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