The Malaysian parliament on Thursday revoked a law against “fake news” that was introduced under former Prime Minister Najib Razak, Reuters reported. Incumbent Mahathir Mohamad had promised to scrap the law if his alliance was voted to power.
In April, the Malaysian government managed to pass the Anti-Fake News bill in Parliament that proposed to penalise “fake news” with hefty fines and up to 10 years in prison, amid concerns that such a legislation could be misused. The law provided for fines of up to 500,000 ringgits (Rs 83 lakh) or both the fine and the jail term.
The government had said the law aimed to “safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news” and could make the public more responsible in sharing news and information, Reuters had reported. Critics, however, accused Razak of trying to restrict free speech before the general election in May. Razak was voted out of power after being accused of corruption and mismanagement.
In April, a Danish citizen was the first person to be convicted for spreading false news about the police on social media under the law. Mohammad and other leaders who had opposed Razak were also targeted with the legislation under the previous administration.
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.