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Malaysian Minister: Fake news committee to get everyone’s views

KUALA LUMPUR — The government committee formed to legislate against fake news will consider as many opinions as possible before finalising anything, said Malaysian communications and multimedia minister Salleh Said Keruak on Sunday (Feb 4), amid concerns from opposition politicians and civil society.

Malaysian Minister: Fake news committee to get everyone’s views

Malay Mail Online file photo

KUALA LUMPUR — The government committee formed to legislate against fake news will consider as many opinions as possible before finalising anything, said Malaysian communications and multimedia minister Salleh Said Keruak on Sunday (Feb 4), amid concerns from opposition politicians and civil society.

Mr Salleh said the committee, headed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said, will submit an early draft of its discussions to the Cabinet as soon as possible.

“The question of fake news is not just worrying for the ruling coalition, but for the opposition parties. Hence the need to consider everyone’s viewpoints on how to overcome it,” he said during the National Aspiration and Leadership Summit at the Putra World Trade Centre.

He said he was confident that should any laws be tabled in parliament to address fake news, it would not become a tool to suppress freedom of thought or speech.

“We have to respect the right of others to criticise the government, or hold different political opinions from us while expressing it online.

“Rather what we seek to target is the sort of news and disinformation which could threaten religious and racial harmony in the country,” Mr Salleh said.

On January 30, Ms Azalina announced the committee and said she hoped it would be able to introduce a new law in time for the upcoming parliamentary session on March 5.

Human rights groups have raised concerns that free speech could be curtailed by proposed legislation to curb fake news.

Human rights organisation Suara Rakyat Malaysia’s chairman K Arumugam said that in order for implementation of laws against fake news to be a success, the strengthening of other institutions like the judiciary and enforcement agencies had to take place first.

“The proposal to enact new laws to fight against fake news is also linked to the fight for greater freedom of expression because of the government’s intolerance in using existing laws like the Sedition Act 1948, the Official Secrets Act 1972, the Communications and Multimedia Act, among others,” he said.

“If there is real need for another legislation to contain fake news, it has to be done only after we have strengthened our institutions such as the judiciary, enforcement agencies, restoration of press freedom and a functional democracy.” MALAY MAIL ONLINE

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