New Malaysian Prime Minister Who Promised To Kill 'Fake News' Law Decides It Might Be Useful Now That He's In Power

from the twist-everyone-saw-coming dept

The "fake news" law erected in Malaysia was put in place to do one thing: allow the government to increase its control of journalists. Top-level corruption needed to be buried, and a "fake news" law seemed like a handy way to do it. The law made one thing clear: the government alone would decide what news was fake. The most likely target appeared to be reporting about the mysterious appearance of $700 million in Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank account.

The law claimed its first victim shortly after being enacted. A Danish citizen visiting Malaysia was arrested and charged after he posted a YouTube video allegedly misrepresenting the time it took for emergency services to respond to the shooting of a Hamas engineering expert. The man will now spend a month in jail after being unable to pay the $2,500 fine handed down by the court.

It once looked like the law might be headed for a swift derailment. Mahathir Mohamad promised he would abolish the law entirely if elected Prime Minister. The BBC reports only part of the previous sentence has come to pass.

Malaysia's new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said he will redefine a controversial anti-fake news law introduced by his predecessor.

The legislation, brought in just before last week's election, was criticised as undermining freedom of speech.

Having obtained power, Mahathir now seems unwilling to use it to fulfill his campaign promise. This seems especially odd considering Mahathir was investigated for "spreading fake news" during his election run after he claimed his campaign plane had been tampered with. You would think someone targeted by a bogus law erected to suppress dissent and silence critics of the ruling party would want a law like this abolished, rather than merely "redefined." But I guess Mahathir would like to have a law to abuse himself, now that he's the one facing criticism and greater scrutiny from Malaysian journalists.

The justification for this campaign promise flip-flop comes from a place of highly-conditional love for the concept of free speech.

[T]he new prime minister said on Sunday: "Even though we support freedom of press and freedom of speech, there are limits."

"Free speech, but…" The favored terminology of people who want to protect speech they like and suppress everything they don't. And Malaysian citizens are right back where they started after the regime change: subject to a "fake news" law that allows the government alone to determine what coverage is real and what should be punished with fines and jail sentences.


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  • identicon
    Michael, 17 May 2018 @ 12:23pm

    Just to recap.

    Before the election...

    Mahathir Mohamad: Fake news laws are being used to silence dissent! Elect me and I will abolish this law!

    After the election...

    Reporter: Now that you have been elected, are you going to make good on your promise to abolish this fake news law?

    Mahathir Mohamad: I never said that and anyone claiming it needs to face this law we have...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 12:31pm

    Our (US) problem is stories like totally fake "Trump-Russia collusion",

    promoted by CIA, stenographed by New York Times and Washington Post.

    Your predictive FUD here about Malaysia is far away and minor, even if were a bad idea to criminalize FAKE NEWS. -- Indeed, most of NYT and WashPo staff would and should be jailed had we anything the like!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 12:56pm

      Re: Our (US) problem is stories like totally fake "Trump-Russia collusion",

      Same old lies, same old response:

      Wikipedia: Links between Trump associates and Russian officials

      135 citations.

      Wikipedia: Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

      449 citations.

      Wikipedia: Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

      1111 citations.

      An election or two from now you'll be here denying that Trump ever existed, or that links between Trump and the Republican Party ever existed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 1:14pm

        Re: Re: Our (US) problem is stories like totally fake "Trump-Russia collusion",

        It's not like you are doing much better.

        I don't think the question is was Russia interfering. Of course they are, but so is every other nation. The question did Trump and Co. break the law in working with them or being complicit somehow with it AND if they can prove it.

        I would even go so far as to say I would not doubt that it occurred, but I also have no doubts that Obama, B./H. Clinton, and Bush Sr/Jr have similar questionable interactions with foreign influences and yes some of those being Russia.

        The problem I see here is why Trump and Russia now? There has been a long chain of this garbage going on for a long time and by both sides. Not only that but America itself has meddled in foreign nations in abundance too.

        I suggest you folks sit back and enjoy the ride. This is not going away and it is already worse than you can imagine. Right now, people only care about it because Trump won, not because it happened.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 1:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Our (US) problem is stories like totally fake "Trump-Russia collusion",

          This. All this.

          Russia AND the US has been trying to influence elections for decades. The fact that its some issue now is because of the medias hate of all things Trump. And its crazy.

          In fact read over most of their ads they put on facebook. Most of them are legit things that Trump supporters would have posted themselves, nothing fake about it, just pro NRA and etc. And that's not to mention the contradicting pro and anti Muslim ads they bought. Its almost like they just wanted to whip up all decent and have Americans fighting Americans, I don't think it matted who won in the end to them as long as it caused divides. Plus with Trumps tough stance on Russia (remember weeks ago the headlines were Trumps going to start WW3 with Russia over Syria, thought they were friends?) it makes even less sense they WANTED Trump to win, over just wanting to cause general in-fighting.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 2:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Our (US) problem is stories like totally fake "Trump-Russia collusion",

          Sure, previous Presidents or their associates have had questionable interactions. But not like this. Not on this scale. This is not business as usual.

          Those "questionable interactions" in the past, they've been investigated and sometimes even prosecuted. The only thing different here is the scale and brazenness of the "questionable interactions."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Talmyr (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 5:51am

          Re: Re: Re: Our (US) problem is stories like totally fake "Trump-Russia collusion",

          IF Obama had had any kind of foreign help, especially Russian (they were still the "baddies" then, remember?), the GOP would have been shouting that from the rooftops, instead of pathetic and belated attempts to pretend someone born in Hawai'i had been born in Kenya to a non-American mother.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 3:27pm

      Re: Our (US) problem is stories like totally fake "Trump-Russia collusion",

      What verifiable proof do you have that writers/editors at either the New York Times or the Washington Post have deliberately falsified any of their reporting?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan, 17 May 2018 @ 12:54pm

    in other news...

    Politicians are corrupt and water is wet

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 1:16pm

      Re: in other news...

      Yep, and the sad thing is most people will write off your post as run of the mill whataboutism.

      The problem is and will always be... clean up your own house before you start selling services to clean up theirs. Sadly, they will never listen because as long as the corruption serves their politics, then it's all good!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 1:25pm

    "You would think someone targeted by a bogus law erected to suppress dissent and silence critics of the ruling party would want a law like this abolished, rather than merely "redefined.""

    Not really. I would expect someone with first hand experience of how useful a law can be used to stifle all dissent would be salivating for their chance to use this law on opponents. Eye for an eye, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 1:33pm

    What what?

    Did someone just call for the arrest of newspaper staff because they are puppets of the CIA our to railroad the president??
    The Times keeps a very nice running track of all the times Trump has outright lied.
    Newspapers have this thing called "Libel" to worry about if they publish lies. Seriously - you may not like what they report but you can't claim it is all fabricated.

    Could the various AC's maybe put a handle or name in their posts so we can tell them apart? That would be great, m'kay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 1:44pm

      Re: What what?

      Could the various AC's maybe put a handle or name in their posts…

      No.

      … so we can tell them apart?

      Look at the identicon(*).


      (*) Sometimes referred to as a gravatar, although that will probably prompt someone to tediously explain the very important distinctions between gravatars and identicons, and how referring to identicons as gravatars upsets their oh so sensitive feelings.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 6:22pm

        Re: Re: What what?

        Yes, I see the nice colorful icons, but the "Cowards" don't want to be identified as unique people between posts. I assume that those colors are randomized on each article.
        I do value the anonymity offered, however keeping the conversation threads straight when the "Cowards" pop up can be tedious.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 6:57pm

          Re: Re: Re: What what?

          I assume that those colors are randomized on each article.

          Gravatars remain the same across articles, but they automatically change on a daily basis.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 6:47am

        Re: Re: What what?

        Of course not. You wouldn't be able to spew your false accusations without risk of being taken to the courts if you identified yourself. That and you like making a fool of yourself so there's the shame involved.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 2:23pm

    Tourism in Malaysia may be adversely affected - oppps

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 4:55pm

    NTN;DR

    Not tech news, didn't read.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 8:41pm

    Sounds alot like .......
    We don't want to remove the 2nd amendment BUT.............
    You know for the children .
    It's like why do I need xxx ???

    Well why do you need xxx number of shoes ?

    Why can you buy a car that can go faster than the speed limit ?

    Why are you allowed to buy a car with more than 3 cylinders ?

    Why does your fear of something impinge MY RIGHT to own what YOU FEAR ?

    Grow a set and take control of your own life don't allow others to control you

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Talmyr (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 5:55am

      Re:

      Your second line rather breaks people controlling their own lives. It's hard when some random cowardly psychopath with a murdertoy fetish can come along and end your life suddenly. Or instead of a cop killing you, a serial killer might.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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