Malaysia makes first arrest under fake news law

A Danish citizen of Yemeni descent has been charged with publishing fake news in Malaysia, the first person to be charged under a new law that prohibits the sharing of inaccurate information. 

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, 46, was charged with spreading false information in a YouTube video where he accused police in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, of taking 50 minutes to respond to the shooting of Fadi al-Batsh, a Palestinian lecturer, on 21 April, the Guardian reported. 

Police in Kuala Lumpur said they responded to the shooting within eight minutes.

The day after the shooting, Malaysia's inspector-general of police, Mohamed Fuzi Harun, said a distress call was received at 6:41am (local time). 

The Palestinian lecturer was shot dead by two men, according to reports. The suspects haven't been identified yet, but police suspect they are still in the country. 

Malaysia introduced anti-fake news law in April 2018.
Malaysia introduced anti-fake news law in April 2018. Photo credit: AAP

Under Malaysia's Anti-Fake News Act 2018 which covers "news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false", Sulaiman has been charged with publishing false content with "ill intent," the Guardian reported. 

Under the new law, passed on 2 April, offenders could be fined up to 500,000 ringgit (NZ$181,000) and imprisoned for up to six years. 

Sulaiman pleaded guilty and was fined 10,000 ringgit (NZ$3,600) by the judge and was ordered to spend a month in jail because he could not pay. 

He said he posted the video in a "moment of anger" and acknowledged his wrongdoing. 

"I agreed I made a mistake. I seriously apologise to everybody in Malaysia, not just in the Malaysian police," he told the Guardian.

 

Malaysia is one of the first countries to introduce a fake news law. Germany passed its first anti-fake news law in January with the authorities able to fine social media companies up to €50 million (NZ$85 million) if fake news isn't removed from websites. 

Singapore and the Philippines are considering introducing similar anti-fake news legislation.