World News

Malaysia jails Danish citizen under its fake news law

Malaysia jails Danish citizen under its fake news law

In an unprecedented move, a Danish man on Monday was jailed for a week in Malaysia for breaking a law against "fake news".

Salah Salem was charged with maliciously publishing fake news in the form of a YouTube video under the user name Salah Sulaiman titled "Pembunuhan Sheikh Al Ghazawi Fadi Al Batsy di Kuala Lumpur, cukuplah Allah bagi kamu sebaik-baik wakil", near the Puteri Idaman condominium, Jalan Meranti, Setapak here between 6.50am and 9am on April 21.

He was sentenced to a week's jail and fined RM10,000 (S$3,378) under the Anti-Fake News Act which came into force on April 11 and provides for stiff punishments of up to six years in prison and a maximum fine of RM500,000.

Judge Zaman Mohd Noor sentenced Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, 46, after the accused, wearing glasses, a white robe, and a green skullcap pleaded guilty to the charges, read out in English.

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

"I apologise to everyone in Malaysia", he added.

Sulaima, during his court appearance in Kuala Lumpur, said he was not aware of Malaysia's laws. "I agreed I made a mistake", he said.

More news: Militants kill 3 youths in Baramulla: cops

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman accused police of taking 50 minutes to respond to the KL shooting of a Palestinian lecturer on April 21, but they said a patrol vehicle arrived on the scene eight minutes after a distress call was received.

The judge fined Sulaiman 10,000 ringgit but he opted to spend a month in jail because he could not pay.

"The accused's action did not only injure the image of the Police and our country but also hurt the feelings of the victim's family members", she said.

Under the newly introduced law, people disseminating false news deliberately can be punished up to six years in jail and a hefty fine.

The law covers digital publications and social media and also applies to offenders outside Malaysia, including foreigners, if Malaysia or a Malaysian citizen are affected.

The "fake news" law has sparked concerns from journalists and human rights groups that it will be used to suppress media criticism ahead of national elections scheduled for May 9, news reports said.

Leading independent news portal Malaysiakini last week mounted the first legal challenge against the legislation, arguing it breaches constitutional guarantees to freedom of speech.


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