M’sia repeals fake news law designed to silence critics

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The Malaysian Parliament has repealed the so-called fake news law, just 5 months after it came into effect under the previous Najib Razak administration.

“We don’t need new legislation,” said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohamed Hanipa Maidin on Thursday. “We already have existing laws… that can deal with this phenomenon.”

The motion to repeal was passed with a simple voice vote.

Rights group, which had criticised the hurriedly-introduced law just before the general election in May, welcomed the move.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists applauds the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad for following through on it campaign pledge to repeal the ‘fake news’ law that blatantly threatened freedom of the press,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We hope other nations will follow Malaysia’s lead in overturning laws that enable governments to decide what is news.”

While Malaysia has now cast aside the controversial legislation, its neighbours in ASEAN, such as Singapore and the Philippines, are considering introducing their own versions to deal with “deliberate online falsehoods”, as described by Singapore’s government.

The island-state had earlier this year convened a Select Committee to hear feedback and expert views on what the government should do to combat what it saw as a serious threat to truthfulness. It is expected to publish its recommendations to the government end of this year.

Last year, Singapore’s Law Minister, K Shanmugam, said legislation on fake news was a “no brainer.”

Critics have slammed the proposed new laws as attempts to instill fear and clamp down on free speech.

Singapore, they say, also has adequate existing laws to deal with falsehoods, whether online or not.