Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan has decried the Anti-Fake News Bill as another tool of oppression.
Gan, who co-founded Malaysiakini with chief executive officer Premesh Chandran, recalled the words of George Orwell in his dystopian novel '1984'.
“George Orwell wrote, 'Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.’ Today, Malaysians are on the brink losing that freedom.
"Malaysia already has a litany of laws which have been used – and abused – to combat fake news. This new law is more than just another layer of control by the government; it is a death blow to the sliver of democracy that we have.
"Fake news is now whatever the government says it is. Two plus two do not make four, if the government says so. This Anti-Fake News Bill is plunging the country into an Orwellian nightmare," he added.
Meanwhile, Premesh also condemned the latest attempt to stifle the freedom of the media and speech.
“This is a regressive law, which seeks to return Malaysia to the age of information darkness. Those in power are seeking to monopolise truth and falsehood through fear.
“As Gan mentioned, there are enough laws to deal with the so-called fake news.
“What appears to be in the works is a legislation, not so much aimed at curbing fake news, but to prevent the dissemination of information which those in power might find uncomfortable.
“It is disheartening that an administration that promised to take Malaysia forward is now backpedalling on its pledge,” Premesh added.
The Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 has proposed a hefty penalty - up to RM500,000 fine or up to 10 years' jail, or both - for those found guilty of spreading "fake news".
The bill defines "fake news" as "any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas".
The same hefty penalties also apply to those who provide financial assistance or abet in the production of "fake news".