Malaysian court issues first fake news conviction

Hannah Rogers
May 2, 2018

He claimed he had made countless calls to the police, who were slow to respond. Charges against Salam said he had "with ill intent, published fake news through a video on YouTube".

The court of Malaysia has delivered its first judgment in accordance with the law on the fight against fake news against a citizen of Denmark. Offenders can be fined up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) and face a maximum of six years in jail.

Local media quoted Salah, who was not represented by a lawyer, as telling the court that he had only been in Malaysia for 10 days and didn't know the country had an anti-fake news law.

"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. Sulaiman said his actions were not meant to cause harm, and apologized for posting the video in a "moment of anger".

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.

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

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On April 21, Dr Fadi, 35, who was also an electrical engineering lecturer at a private higher educational institution here, was shot dead outside Idaman Puteri's condominium in Setapak here while walking to Surau Medan Idaman to lead the morning prayers at about 6am. "I seriously apologize to everybody in Malaysia, not just in the Malaysian police", he told the court.

"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.

Malaysia's inspector-general of police, Mohamad Fuzi Harun, said a day after the shooting that their records showed a distress call was received at 6:41 a.m. and a patrol vehicle arrived at the scene eight minutes later.

Critics have alleged that the new law aims at repressing dissent and a media company has filed a suit that seeks to declare it unconstitutional.

After the bill was announced, opposition lawmaker Ong Kian Ming tweeted that "the point of such a law IS to prosecute truth tellers by labelling them as purveyors of fake news".

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