Malaysia issues first ‘fake news’ conviction


In a verdict with grave implications for press freedom, a Malaysian court on 30 April 2018 handed down the nation’s first conviction under its recently enacted “fake news” law, according to press reports.

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, a Danish citizen, was sentenced to one week in prison and fined RM10,000 (US$2,500) for posting to the internet a two-minute video criticising police’s response to the 21 April assassination of a member of the militant group Hamas in Kuala Lumpur.

Sulaiman, who was travelling in Malaysia on vacation when he posted the video, pleaded guilty to the criminal charges of spreading false information, saying that he was unaware of local laws, and apologised to Malaysian authorities, news reports said.

Malaysia’s Anti-Fake News Act, enacted earlier this month after passing both houses of Parliament, covers “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false”, reports said. Under the law, an individual convicted of spreading “fake news” can be sentenced to up to six years in prison and be fined RM500,000 (US$128,000).

“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 South East Asia representative. “The dangerous precedent should be overturned and this ill-conceived law repealed for the sake of press freedom.”

Sulaiman was first detained on 23 April and the sentencing allowed for time already served, according to news reports. If Sulaiman is unable to pay the fine, presiding judge Zaman Mohamad Noor ruled he will have to serve another month in jail, the reports said.

READ MORE:  Media watchdog condemns harassment of journalists by Umno leaders, supporters

The video Sulaiman posted was about the murder of Hamas member Fadi al-Batsh, an alleged drone warfare expert who trained in Malaysia, according to reports.

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 9 May, news reports said.

Local online news outlet Malaysiakini has challenged the law’s legality at Kuala Lumpur’s High Court on the grounds it violates free speech guarantees enshrined in the national constitution, reports said.

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists

Thanks for dropping by! Apart from the views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed, the opinions in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation of whatever amount you can afford to sustain Aliran. Please make payments to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.

And why not become an Aliran member or subscribe to our FREE newsletters.

Join the conversation

1 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Jestqlie Tom Thumb Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Jestqlie Tom Thumb

Selective persecution