Kit Siang: Dr M would have been first Malaysian charged under Anti Fake-News Act if BN still in power

Kenneth Tee
While campaigning last year, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was investigated by the police under the Act for saying the flight to Langkawi he chartered on the eve of nomination day had been sabotaged. Authorities later dropped the investigation.— Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — DAP’s Lim Kit Siang claimed today Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would have been the first person prosecuted under the Anti-Fake News Act if Pakatan Harapan (PH) had not defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) last year.

Lim, who is also Iskandar Puteri MP, said Dr Mahathir would also have been joined by other PH leaders in facing criminal charges for speaking out against the 1MDB scandal involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“If Barisan Nasional had won the 14th General Election, Malaysians would be turned into a ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ country where any reference to the 1MDB scandal would be a criminal offence under the Anti-Fake News Act liable to be jailed for six years or fined RM500,000, or both.

“Although outside the borders of Malaysia, the whole world would know about the 1MDB scandal and Malaysia becoming a global kleptocracy,” he said in a statement here.

While campaigning last year, PH chairman Dr Mahathir was investigated by the police under the Act for saying the flight to Langkawi he chartered on the eve of nomination day had been sabotaged. Authorities later dropped the investigation.

Lim claimed this was made very clear by former deputy communications and multimedia minister Jailani Johari who once defined any information about 1MDB not verified by the government as fake news.

He further reiterated that the Act was in fact a “Save Najib from 1MDB Scandal” legislation which criminalised all news about 1MDB scandal in Malaysia.

“Malaysia would have made world history in discovering a new weapon to cover-up corruption, in particular the 1MDB corruption and money-laundering scandal,” he said.

While there have not been any Malaysians convicted under the Act, Danish national Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman became the first in the country to be punished under the Act over a YouTube video he had posted regarding the shooting of a supposed Hamas member in April 2018. 

On September 12 last year, Dewan Negara president Tan Sri SA Vigneswaran announced the Bill to repeal the law introduced by BN was rejected 28-21, with three abstentions.

The Act, which came into force on April 11 last year, makes it an offence for anyone to create, offer, publish, print, distribute, circulate or disseminate any ‘fake news’ or publication, or to provide financial assistance to the distributors of fake news.

The Act provides a punishment of up to six years’ jail, a maximum RM500,000 fine, or both, for the publication of ‘fake news’.

It was passed under the former BN administration amid fierce criticism from civil society and then PH leaders.

Exactly a year later, law minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the government will resubmit the Anti-Fake News (Repeal) Bill to Parliament next month following the expiry of the cooling-off period triggered by its rejection in Dewan Negara.

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