The first anti-hoax legislation in the world, Akta AntiBerita Tidak Benar 2018 (Akta 803), was officially enforced on April 11, 2018. It is informed through the website of the General Prosecutor of Malaysia.
According to this legislation, “fake news” covers any news, information, data, and reports that are partially or entirely wrong, whether in the form of articles, visual or audio recordings or in other forms that may reflect words or ideas.
The offenses set out under Article 4 of Akta 803 are to withhold, offer, publicize, and otherwise, fake news or publications containing fake news.
- If found guilty under this section, the defendant may be fined no more than RM500,000 or incarcerated for not more than six years or both.
- Violation under Article 5 is to provide financial assistance for the purpose of committing or facilitating criminal offenses under Article 4 governing the same sentence.
- Meanwhile, the breach under Article 6 does not impose an obligation to abolish the false news publication which gives a fine not exceeding RM100,000.
- According to Akta 803, the court may order the removal of publications containing the fake news.
- Akta 803 applies also to non-Malaysian nationals or persons outside Malaysia as if the offense was committed anywhere in the country.
- Akta 803 applies if the news that is not true is about Malaysia or the person touched by the order of the offense is a Malaysian citizen.
Not long after the Akta 803 was enforced, the Johor Police have used this law to investigate fake news about Tunku Mahkota Johor (TMJ) Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim reportedly providing assistance at several supermarkets on April 12, 2018. The message shares information that TMJ will provide up to RM200 in Pontian and some other districts in social media, causing hazy situations in some supermarkets such as Pontian Econsave Supermarket.
The police stated it would be based on Article 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 which impose a fine of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment up to a year or both. In addition, based on Article 4 of the new Akta 803, it is said that individuals may be charged with a maximum fine of RM500,000 or imprisonment of up to six years or both.
Previously SAFEnet feared the Akta AntiBerita Tidak Benar 2018 (Akta 803) was intended to limit freedom of speech; that the Malaysian government is in a hurry in giving birth to this law; that this law is too harsh and is meant to prepare for Malaysia’s general election; legal redundancy; unclear definition of fake news; excessive punishment; unclear who defines fake news and selective prosecution.