A Malaysian court on Monday convicted a Danish citizen for spreading false news about the police on social media, Reuters reported. He is the first person to be prosecuted under the country’s new Anti-Fake News Act.
Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman was charged with posting a video on YouTube that claimed the Malaysian Police had taken 50 minutes to respond to distress calls after a Palestinian lecturer was shot in Kuala Lumpur on April 21. The police, however, said they took eight minutes.
The 46-year-old was accused of sharing the video “with ill intent”. He pleaded guilty to the charge of posting the video but said he had done so in a “moment of anger” and meant no harm. “I agreed I made a mistake...I seriously apologise to everybody in Malaysia, not just in the Malaysian police,” Sulaiman said. He did not have a lawyer to represent him in court.
The court sentenced him to a month in jail after he said he could not pay the fine of 10,000 ringgit. Violators of Malaysia’s contentious new law face fines up to 5,00,000 ringgit or a prison sentence up to six years in jail.
Critics have alleged that the new law aims at repressing dissent and a media company has filed a suit that seeks to declare it unconstitutional. The Anti-Fake News Act defines fake news as “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false” and included features, visuals and audio recordings.
The Singaporean and Philippines governments have also proposed similar laws. India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry had issued guidelines to penalise journalists for spreading “fake news” but withdrew it soon after it drew criticism.