In Brief

Malaysia threatens ten years in jail for spreading fake news

Offenders could also face a £90,000 fine

The Malaysian government is seeking to prevent the spread of fake news by introducing draconian penalties for anyone caught publishing or passing on false information.

Under a proposed new law, anyone convicted of knowingly creating or spreading “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false” could be jailed for up to ten years and fined up to £90,000.

Blogs, public forums and social media accounts would be covered, as well as professional media.

Eric Paulsen, co-founder of Malaysian human rights group Lawyers for Liberty, told the BBC: “The bill is 100% intended to muffle dissent... the punishment is extremely high and what amounts to fake news has been loosely defined.”

It would apply to anyone publishing fake news concerning Malaysia or its people, which means foreigners as well as Malaysian citizens could be prosecuted.

“On paper, the bill aims to deter the spread of fake news, particularly on social media platforms,” says the Strait Times. “But journalists and opposition politicians fear that it could be used to target them.”

The bill was tabled today in the Malaysian parliament, where a vote within the next few weeks “should not pose any hurdles” to it becoming law, says the Strait Times.

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