Malaysian prime minister pushes to outlaw ‘fake news’ before election in August

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s scandal-haunted government pushed plans for legislation outlawing “fake news” as parliament convened for the last time before an election due by August. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2018
0

Malaysian prime minister pushes to outlaw ‘fake news’ before election in August

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s scandal-haunted government pushed plans for legislation outlawing “fake news” on Monday as parliament convened for the last time before an election due by August.
During the coming election campaign, Najib’s foes are expected to fan suspicions of corruption over billions of dollars that have gone missing from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the state fund founded by the prime minister, and whose advisory board he had chaired until mid-2016. Malaysia’s king, Sultan Muhammad V, told parliament at the opening sitting on Monday that he “greatly supported” the government’s efforts to introduce a law to deal with “the spread of fake news and lies on social media.”
“Currently social media is very influential in forming the values and culture of a society,” the king said in a traditional royal address at the opening of parliament.
The final draft of the bill is expected to be presented for cabinet approval “in a couple of weeks’ time” before being tabled in parliament, state rub Bernama news agency quoted Azalina Othman Said, the minister in charge of law and parliament, as saying. However, Azalina said cabinet will consider if there would be enough time to table the bill in the month-long parliamentary meeting, which would predominantly debate the king’s address.
First exposed in 2015 by foreign media and news blogs, the 1MDB scandal has refused to die down despite Najib’s consistent denials of any wrongdoing and his government’s firm grip on the mainstream media in the country.
At least six countries are investigating transactions related to 1MDB, including the US, where the Department of Justice has mounted its biggest investigation under an anti-kleptocracy initiative, and has launched civil cases to recover assets linked to the fund.
But the government has cowed independent media inside the country. During the early stages of the 1MDB saga, the authorities suspended one newspaper, The Edge, forced the owners to close The Malaysian Insider news website, and blocked other websites for publishing stories critical of Najib’s role.
Governments elsewhere in Southeast Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines, have proposed laws aimed at clamping down on the spread of “fake news,” while media rights advocates have decried the trend in the region.
Opposition lawmakers questioned the need for such a law in Malaysia, arguing that the government already had broad powers. “There are many other laws that are already in existence which can deal with these issues, so the only reason for a new law to come in is to make the severity (of punishments) even higher,” said Tony Pua, a member of parliament from the Democratic Action Party (DAP).


Cuba slightly loosens controls on state media

Updated 21 June 2018
0

Cuba slightly loosens controls on state media

HAVANA: Reports in Cuba’s state-run press have long consisted mostly of transcriptions of official Communist Party declarations, but that turgid style appears to be incrementally changing in the wake of Miguel Diaz-Canel becoming president in April.
Cuban journalists said the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, one of the country’s most powerful bodies, recently approved a “New Communication Policy” aimed at giving state media more ability to report news like their colleagues do in other countries.
State journalists say the goal is to compete with the spread of information from alternative online sources. Cuba has one of the world’s lowest rates of Internet use, but access has been expanding rapidly and Cubans who get online can find a nearly unlimited range of non-official media outlets.