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MCMC moots tenfold hike for 'fake news' penalties

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Existing punishments under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 should be increased to deter any individual from spreading fake news, said Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chief operating officer Mazlan Ismail.

According to Berita Harian, Mazlan said the current punishments under Section 233 (1) of the CMA were insufficient to dissuade would-be offenders.

"In my opinion, the current fine of RM50,000 must be increased to RM500,000 and the jail sentence (from one year) should be increased to 10 years.

"This should be a lesson so no one would simply spread fake news," he was quoted as saying in an interview with the Malay daily.

At the same time, Mazlan also denied claims that Putrajaya's crackdown on "fake news" was an infringement on the rights to freedom of speech, expression and also freedom of the press.

"In this context, nobody is being prevented from speaking up so long as they do not go against any laws as our country practices freedom of speech which is in line with democratic practices," he said.

The same principle also applies to media organisations and journalists, he added.

Putrajaya had on Jan 30 announced the formation of a special committee to study legislative measures to curb the spread of fake news in the country.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said, who chairs the committee, said a proposed draft law against fake news will be tabled to the cabinet in the near future and thereafter put to a vote in Parliament during the upcoming session next month. 

The committee includes representatives from the police, Attorney-General's Chambers, National Security Council, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, the Legal Affairs Division, MCMC, and also non-governmental organisations and MPs. 

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