Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad rejects fake-news claim

Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad rejects fake-news claim
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (AFP)
Updated 03 May 2018

Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad rejects fake-news claim

Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad rejects fake-news claim

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 92, on Thursday dared the authorities to charge him in court over a sabotage claim made on Tuesday.
“They can charge me in court. I have no fake news, only truth,” he said.
As campaigning got underway at the weekend, Mahathir claimed that there had been an attempt to sabotage a plane he had chartered to prevent him heading to the island of Langkawi to formally register his candidacy for the election.
He still made it to the island by taking another plane. Malaysia’s civil aviation authority and the charter company said there was a technical issue with the plane but rejected the allegations of sabotage.
Kuala Lumpur police said a report had been lodged accusing Mahathir of spreading “fake news” under a controversial new law, which critics say is aimed at cracking down on dissent before the poll.
“We have opened an investigation (into Mahathir) under the anti-fake news law,” the capital’s police chief Mazlan Lazim told AFP. “We will conduct the normal process of investigation.”
Local media reported that the police complaint was lodged by a group that supports Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organization, which said Mahathir’s claims of sabotage had caused anxiety among Malaysians.
Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, said he believes Mahathir will not be charged before the general election next Wednesday.
“They might charge him after the election but not before,” Chin told Arab News. “They’re worried about the backlash if they go after him before the election.”
Dr. Oh Ei Sun, senior adviser at the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute, said: “It is highly unlikely that any significant action will be taken against him, as it would further rile up anti-establishment sentiment before the elections.”
Jerald Joseph, commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, said: “The manner of rushing the Anti-Fake News Act without thinking it through is worrying.”
Despite an outcry from the media, human rights organizations and the public, the bill was swiftly passed in Parliament and became law on April 11. It provides for a jail term of up to six years and a fine of up to $130,000.
Joseph was critical of the case against Danish journalist Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, the first person to be charged under the act for saying police responded slowly to the murder of a Palestinian lecturer in Malaysia last month.