Malaysian court issues first fake news conviction

Malaysian court issues first fake news conviction

Malaysia began prohibiting "fake news" in April after its parliament passed a law that makes "maliciously" spreading or creating fake news punishable by up to six years in prison and a maximum fine of up to 500,000 ringgit (about USA $128,000).

A court in Malaysia convicted a Danish national on Monday for inaccurately criticizing police on social media.

He also claimed he made 43 calls to the police who arrived at the scene 50 minutes later while an ambulance came only an hour later.

Police said they took eight minutes to respond to the shooting in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Sulaiman said his actions were not meant to cause harm, and apologized for posting the video in a "moment of anger".

"Malaysia's first conviction under its "fake news" law shows authorities plan to abuse the new provision to criminalise critical reporting", said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative in a statement.

Leading independent news portal Malaysiakini last week mounted the first legal challenge against the legislation, arguing in the Kuala Lumpur High Court that it breaches constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech.

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The court ordered for the accused's jail term to run from the date of his arrest on April 23 and for him to serve a months' jail if he fails to pay the fine.

Salah, a horse groomer by trade, was sentenced by Sessions Court judge Zaman Mohd Noor after pleading guilty to the charge that was read out to him in English.

A Danish citizen has become the first person to be punished under the new Anti-Fake News Act, over a YouTube video he had posted regarding the fatal shooting of Dr Fadi Mohammed Al Batsh, a Palestinian imam shot near his residence in Setapak two weeks ago. "The risky precedent should be overturned and this ill-conceived law repealed for the sake of press freedom".

Fake news is not just a problem experienced in the USA, but in other countries as well where it has been found that the propagation of fake news could somehow affected elections. It has sparked outrage from rights groups who believe it is aimed at cracking down on dissents. "I agreed I made a mistake", he said. "I seriously apologize to everybody in Malaysia, not just in the Malaysian police". It also covers digital publications and social media.

A Malaysian media company filed a suit seeking to declare the law unconstitutional.

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