The Malaysian government has proposed new laws aiming to ban false or false news.
Punishment for those who break the law includes a 10-year sentence and heavy fines
The proposed laws have been described as an attempt to severely curtail criticism of the government before the general election.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is currently facing questions about billions of dollars missing from a state investment . Human rights activists are concerned that the new laws could be used to make reports of misconduct by governments and critical opinions illegal.
The general election must be held by August. But the observers expect it to take place over the next few weeks.
The anti-fake news calls for punishing those who create, offer, distribute, print or publish false news or publications with false news. Those found guilty could face a 1
The law defines fake news as "news, information dates and reports that are or are wholly or partially false, whether in the form of features visuals or Audio Recordings or in any other form of suggestion words or ideas. "
The law, as it is written, extends to foreigners outside of Malaysia as long as Malaysia or its citizens are concerned.
Opposition legislator Ong Kian Ming responded to the proposed laws on Twitter. He wrote: "This is an attack on the press and an attempt to instill fear among the (human)."
Government officials have said that the law is necessary to protect the public harmony and national security. They have accused the opposition coalition of using fake news as a weapon to win votes.
The officials also warned that any news about the Malaysian Development Berhad, or 1MDB, SWF that is not from the government is wrong.
The state fund plans long-term investments for the country. The United States and some other countries are investigating corruption allegations and illegal wallets at 1MDB
Prime Minister Najib created the Economic Development Support Fund. It has instead collected billions of dollars in debt.
The US Department of Justice says people associated with Najib have stolen at least $ 4.5 billion from 1MDB. The department is working to take $ 1.7 billion out of the fund to buy assets in the United States. The move could be the largest asset seizure in the US.
Najib denies any wrongdoing. He has dismissed critics in his administration and restricted the media since the news of the corruption appeared three years ago.
Support for Najib's governing coalition has declined sharply in the last two elections. For the first time, the referendum in 2013 lost the opposition.
Experts expect Najib to win a third term. This is due to differences of opinion within the opposition, changes in constituencies and strong government support among ethnic landmaidals.
Critics said the anti-false bill will add a list of restrictive laws. These include a sedition law, a press and publication law, as well as an official secret and a security law. All of these laws have been used to violate freedom of expression and damage media freedom, critics add.
A coalition of human rights organizations and other organizations has expressed its concern that the government is enforcing legislation too quickly. They say the government has not asked for public opinion or published details about the law before the public inquiry.
The Associated Press first reported this story. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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words in this story
fake – adj. not true or genuine
Fund – n. Amount of money used for a specific purpose
Data – n. Facts or information normally used to to calculate, analyze, or plan something
features – n. A special story or section in a newspaper or magazine
Visuals – n. Something one considered (such as a picture, a card or a movie) used to make something more appealing or easier to understand
audio – n. Or in relation to the sound recorded on a recording or Broadcast is heard
capable – adj. Able to do something: to have the qualities or abilities one needs to do something
Harmony – n. Able to do something: with the qualities or skills necessary are to do something
assets – n. Something that belongs to a person, corporation etc – usually plural
Anthropomorphism – n. Something that belongs to a person , Company etc – usually plural