KUALA LUMPUR,. Those who knowingly create and spread fake news could end up RM500,000 poorer or jailed up to 10 years.
These are among the proposed penalties under the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 tabled at the Dewan Rakyat for first reading yesterday.
The Bill, tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, seeks to deal with fake news by providing for certain offences and measures to curb dissemination of falsehoods.
It aims to address widespread concerns over fake news, now so easily spread with current communications technology that it can have a quick effect on the public.
The Bill seeks to safeguard the public against fake news while ensuring that the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution is respected.
“With the proposed Act, it is hoped the public will be more responsible and cautious in sharing news and information,” the Bill reads.
It defines that fake news “includes any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas”.
Anyone who “knowingly creates, offers, publishes, prints, distributes, circulates or disseminates any fake news or publication containing fake news commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both” once the Bill is passed.
Anyone found guilty of abetment will also face the same punishment provided for the offence.
In the case of a continuing offence, an offender is liable to a further fine of up to RM3,000 for every day during which the offence continues after conviction.
In addition to the penalties, the courts may also order a person convicted of the offence to make an apology to the affected party, such as in open court or by publishing it in the newspapers, for example.
Failure to comply would be deemed contempt of court and punishable as such, the Bill proposes.
Anyone found to provide financial assistance for the purpose of committing or facilitating the offence is also liable to a fine of up to RM500,000 or imprisonment up to 10 years, or both.
The Bill also states that any person who fails to remove publications containing fake news is also liable to a fine of up to RM100,000 and, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine of up to RM3,000 daily during which the offence continues after conviction.
Anyone affected by a publication containing fake news may apply ex parte to the Court for an order for the removal of such material.
This application should, however, include a police report and other supporting documents.
Those ordered to remove publications containing fake news may also apply to set aside the order within 14 days of it being served.
However, if the order is obtained by the Government relating to a publication containing fake news which is “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order or national security”, there shall be no application to set it aside.
For corporate bodies, the Bill states any person responsible such as the director, chief executive officer, manager, secretary or similar officers may be charged severally or jointly in the same proceedings as the corporation.
The Bill also provides for extra-territorial application, meaning that if an offence is committed by a person, regardless of his nationality or citizenship and in any place outside Malaysia, it will be dealt with in the same manner as if it were committed within the country.