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After some amendments, passage of anti-fake news law complete

Alyaa Azhar & Yap Jia Hee  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LIVE | PARLIAMENT | The Dewan Rakyat picks up where it left off on Thursday. Live reports follow: 

6.20pm: The bill has been passed at the committee stage and third reading. It is passed through voice votes. 

The bill will be submitted to the Senate to be deliberated and passed before ultimately being gazetted. 

6.05pm: The amendments to the bill are passed at the committee stage. They are passed through voice votes in the House. 

The word "knowingly" is replaced with "maliciously" to define an offence under Section 4 of the bill.

The maximum jail term in the bill is reduced to six years, down from 10, while the proposed fine of up to RM500,000 is maintained.

5.30pm: AFN bill passes second reading with a 123-64 vote. The bill is now entering the committee stage debate.

The bill is supported by 11 PAS MPs, along with Abdul Khalid Ibrahim (IND-Bandar Tun Razak).

5.10pm: Sim Tze Tzin (PKR-Bayan Baru) cites a report by The Economist whose headline reads "PM accused of stealing billions." The article also features Najib's picture. 

"This is malicious content. This (anti-fake news law) means Pekan (Najib) can get a court order to close The Economist.

"But does this mean all online news media will be banned? Will Malaysia close all online news media?" Sim asks.

Azalina replies by saying that anyone is free to make an ex parte application should they choose to do so. 

Ramkarpal then asks whether Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan will be investigated for "telling the whole world" that Najib is MO1.

4.55pm: Azalina responds to Ramkarpal's question by saying that only the court can decide who is MO1.

"Bukit Gelugor (Ramkarpal) asks me about MO1. Only court can answer who is MO1 after this (AFN) bill is passed. Court to take the decision," she says.

She says that the speaker has given instructions to the Dewan about the debate on RM2.6 billion and 1MDB issues previously, and all MPs are following the speaker's instructions now.

Just resign, MP tells speaker

4.38pm: Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin addresses requests by opposition members to take action against Azeez for using unparliamentary words.

"Sometimes I get confused what is unparliamentary words because they have become the norm."

Pandikar then suggests to Azalina to formulate a bill that will address the speaker's health.

"You just need to resign, the problem will be settled," Hanipa quips.

4.30pm: In stressing how those from BN would always be let off in various cases, Khalid questions why no stern action was taken against those who were responsible for attacking him within Parliament grounds.

Those who had attacked him included Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tajuddin Abdul Rahman's son.

Tajuddin, however, says that action is indeed being taken.

"(The attack) was made to tell you to watch your mouth, don't be rude. We want to settle the matter in court," Tajuddin says in reference to Khalid who had called him sial in Parliament before the attack occurred.

Sepang MP Hanipa Maidin however, tells Tajuddin that Khalid was questioning why no stern action was taken.

"He wasn't asking why no action was taken. He said no stern action was taken.

"Are you deaf?"

Tajuddin, however, says it was Khalid who had asked that the court case is postponed.

Khalid, however, denies that he had asked that the case is postponed.

"This is fake news," he says.

4.15pm: Ramkarpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) interjects and asks whether BN's Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan once saying that MO1 was Pekan MP cum Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, is fake news.

"Can you tell us, MO1 is Pekan (MP) is fake news or not? Because I will go to campaign and say MO1 is Najib," he asks.

He then describes Azalina as a coward (pengecut) because she did not touch on the 1MDB issue in her winding-up speech.

"The minister (Azalina) stands up and supposedly, she has answered all the questions in our debate. With the greatest of respect, your reply was absolutely baseless, nonsense.

"Why are you ignoring the elephant in the Dewan, that is 1MDB? Why did you not touch on 1MDB, are you a coward, are you afraid of touching an issue which all of us had debated last week?" he asks.

3.55pm: In denying that the bill is draconian, Azalina says it was the ISA that was draconian.

Azalina also points out how it will be the courts that will be deciding the cases, should the bill be passed.

"But this wasn't the case during the time of mahazalim, mahafiraun," she says, without mentioning names.

However, Khalid asks why "mahazalim" and "mahafiraun" are suddenly mentioned.

"Weren't you in support of him?" Khalid asks in reference to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Baling MP Azeez Abdu Rahim interjects, saying Khalid used to criticise Mahathir but now considers him as "mahasuci".

While Khalid and Azeez continue their verbal spat, Azalina continues to read examples from the Hansard during Mahathir's time as premier.

"I'm reading the Hansard to show the difference between the kind of leadership then and now."

Khalid, however, asks why she had supported Mahathir then.

Azalina, however, cites how PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim had described Mahathir as a dictator in 1998.

Khalid hit back by saying that BN supported Mahathir when he was in power.

"When Pekan (Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak) no longer has power, only then you will criticise him," he says.

3.42pm: Azalina addresses the various concerns raised by the debaters through 12 points.

On the first point - that the law curbs freedom of speech - Azalina says there is no law which curbs freedom of speech, adding that this is in line with the Federal Constitution.

However, Azalina says Parliament is empowered to formulate laws in the interest of public and national security.

While freedom of speech not prevented, Azalina cites a court case which had decided that there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech.

Explaining the second point, Azalina addresses the question of why the government is passing the bill hastily.

"If not now, when should we do it?

"The spread of fake news is a global problem that must be dealt with," she says.

3.30pm: Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said starts her winding-up speech.

She stresses that this bill is aimed to tackle fake news instead of blocking the freedom of speech.

"I am very disappointed because many MP have wasted their time in the debate to throw allegations and slander against the government.

"Only those who spread the fake news will now oppose the bill," she says.

'Malaysia will become a dictatorship country'

3.15pm: Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) says Malaysia will become a dictatorship country if AFN Bill is passed.

"There are many existing acts that can be used to tackle fake news, such as Penal Code, Communications and Multimedia Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act.

"Therefore, we don't need one more new act with severe and heavy punishments.The existing laws are sufficient, why do we need one more act?

"This will see one step forward to dictatorship, this is more than autocracy," he says.  

He also asks if a deputy minister stating the price of goods will drop, while there is a hike in prices, will be considered fake news. 

"Will action be taken against the deputy minister under the AFN Act? Because the price of goods have been going up until the BN government has to do 'sales' to show they are concerned about the people.

"Don't need to do a sale, just abolish GST," he says.

3pm: Khoo Soo Seang (BN-Tebrau) says that the "fake news" of there being 40,000 Bangladeshi phantom voters during the last general election had affected the outcome of the polls.

Steven Sim (DAP-Bukit Mertajam) asks him in response whether this is an admission that the bill is aimed at helping BN in the general election.

Khoo deflects Sim's query, however, and shifts to a viral video showing a woman alleging that she was not allowed to enter a police station to seek protection after being followed by a group of men in a car.

He says it was strange that the woman did not name the police station involved. "It seems that she had ill intentions in making the claim," he says.

Kasthuri Patto (DAP-Batu Kawan) informs him that the Alam Damai police station was indeed mentioned.

Apart from Kasthuri, Sim, Teo Nie Ching (DAP-Kulai), and Khalid Samad (Amanah-Shah Alam) urge Khoo to retract his remarks.

He ignores their demand.

2.50pm: Teo Kok Seong (DAP-Rasah) questions the government's haste in wanting to pass the bill.

"The most important thing to do now is to have more dialogues with the rakyat on why the government wants to pass this bill before the general election."

He also asks if those who spread the news that the GST burdens the people will be charged.

"If someone spreads WhatsApp or WeChat messages that the GST burdens the rakyat, will the words 'GST burdens the rakyat' be considered fake news after this law is passed, and will those who spread this be charged in court?"

Using the same example, Teo also questions who will ultimately decide whether news is fake or otherwise.

"GST burdening the rakyat – this is true, but the government's interpretation is that it is not burdensome," he adds.

2.35pm: Anuar Abd Manap (BN-Sekijang) points out how even religions stress the importance of preventing fake news.

"Is the process of preventing fake news not a good thing?

"This is the problem with the opposition. They are against even good things," Anuar says.

1.05pm: The sitting is adjourned for a lunch break and will resume at 2.30pm.

PAS man cries slander

12.45pm: Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali (PAS-Kuala Nerus) says it is a big slander to allege that PAS is receiving 1MDB money from Umno.

He says this after Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang) interjects and says there is speculation that PAS leaders are receiving 1MDB money and this is causing the people to misunderstand the party.

"It is big slander to say PAS is receiving money from Umno. I was also accused of buying a car using money from Umno. My salary is not only from Parliament, for I am a businessman and I have my own finances.

"This is a malicious allegation and damage to dignity. It is a wrong allegation," Khairuddin says.

Mujahid Yusof Rawa (Amanah-Parit Buntar) then interjects and asks whether PAS agreed to declare its assets, as done by Amanah, as a way to counter the false allegation on the PAS MP's wealth.

Khairuddin says there is no need to do asset declaration publicly and that this can be done, internally in PAS.

"We do it in party internally because if we declare openly, it may expose us to various attacks on the wealth issue," he says.

However, he refuses to comment when Mujahid asks whether the PAS MPs have declared their assets in front of the PAS leaders.

"I do not want to comment this question. This is our party internal matter," Khairuddin says.

12.42pm: In stressing the need for a law to tackle fake news, Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh (BN-Setiu) cites various news reports involving the opposition.

"'Pemimpin PKR dedah sifat Rafizi' (PKR leader reveals Rafizi's true colours) - is this true or false? As long as no denial is made, we cannot say whether it's true or false.

"There's more, 'Muhyiddin tak malu sekatil dengan bini orang' (Muhyiddin is not ashamed to sleep with someone's wife) - should we allow this, should we keep quiet about this? Is this true or false?

"I can't say it is true because I myself don't know whether this is true or false," Che Mohamad says.

He then went on to cite a report by Malaysiakini on PAS which had prayed for the destruction of 'evil pakatan'.

"Malaysiakini reported 'PAS Selangor doa hancurkan tentera ahzab Pakatan' (Selangor PAS prays for destruction of Pakatan's tentera ahzab) and later came out with another news, 'PAS Selangor doa hancurkan pakatan jahat' (Selangor PAS prays for the destruction of evil pakatan).

"Which one is true?" he queries.

Since opposition members are also victims of fake news, Che Mohamad points out how they can lodge reports and make ex parte applications once the law is passed.

'Refer to select committee'

12.15pm: M Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) demands the AFN Bill be immediately referred to the parliamentary select committee for a deeper study.

He says this after Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) interjects and says that BN will set up a parliamentary select committee if given the mandate by the people after the 14th general election. 

"We will set up a select committee, and you (Kulasegaran) will be selected as president of the select committee," Bung Moktar says.

Kulasegaran then questions if this is the BN government's stance, then why is such a select committee not set up now. 

"Singapore also has a parliamentary select committee to study and take into account all opinions. The prime minister's brother (Nazir Razak) also said there is no necessity for the bill," he says.

He also expresses worry that the AFN Act will be used by the BN government to silence the opposition.

"This is another way to put the opposition down," he says.

12.10pm: Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh), asks Irmohizam for his views on the double standards faced by the opposition when it comes to fake news.

"The police, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) take swift action when those from the government complain about fake news but no action is taken when opposition members are the victims.

"I was attacked using fake information on social media. I was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) because of fake news but no action was taken against BN which spread fake news about me."

However, Irmohizam wonders when an action was taken against Kok under the ISA.

"ISA has been repealed. This is fake news," says Irmohizam.

Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan), meanwhile, cites similar laws in Indonesia and the Philippines, which he says are harsher when it comes to punishing those who spread fake news.

"This is to fight against those who like to spread fake news.

"If you don't like to spread fake news, like me, you won't be punished.

"But if you are like Seputeh who likes to spread fake news, then, of course, you will be punished."

To this, Kok responds with: "This is fake news".

11.58am: Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (Amanah-Kota Raja) asks whether the existing mechanism practised by government agencies is not sufficient to tackle fake news.

"I always see government departments responding to news involving the government.

"This way, they can answer the particular issues and the rakyat will know whether a particular news is fake (or otherwise).

"Isn't the existing mechanism not sufficient to respond to fake news?

Irmohizam Ibrahim (BN-Kuala Selangor) says efforts that have been done by the government to tackle fake news should not be disregarded.

"(But) this is a bigger problem.

"Is it the case that those who are so against the bill are also those who spread fake news?" he queries.

11.45am: Amanah's Parit Buntar MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa questions whether the new law will solve the problems arising from fake news on social media or will it become "a more violent monster".

"Will the law be used by those who are in power to block any voices that criticise corruption and fraud in the government?" he asks.

11.38am: Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (BN-Tanah Merah), calls on the opposition to support the bill.

The opposition, he says, should not be like cacing kepanasan (anxious) over the bill. 

"If you don't have any hidden agenda, let's support the bill.

"I find it strange why (the opposition) is making unnecessary noise about it, as though it will be the end of the world if this law is implemented."

Everyone, he adds, will face the law if he or she is responsible for spreading fake news.

"So there's nothing you should be worried about," he adds.

11.33am: The bill is expected to be passed today.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Razali Ibrahim says the sitting will not adjourn until the passage of the bill. 

Deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee says each debater will have 15 minutes of floor time at most, while the winding-up speech is scheduled for 3.30pm.

Lawmakers continue debating the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 for second reading today.

The bill was tabled for second reading by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said on Thursday.

Azalina had informed the Dewan Rakyat that several amendments to the bill will be made during the debate at the committee stage.

Among others, she said the word "knowingly" to define an offence under Section 4 of the draft bill will be replaced with the word "maliciously."

She also said the maximum jail term in the bill had been reduced to six years, down from 10, but that the proposed fine of up to RM500,000 will be maintained.

Critics have described the bill as being too broad and a threat to freedom of expression in Malaysia.

The government, however, has denied claims that it would be used to silence critics, and insisted that it was drafted with the idea of safeguarding national interests as well as to protect victims of fake news.

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