Malaysia Poised to Give 10 Years in Jail for Fake News

In this Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 file photo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Joshua Paul / Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s government has proposed new legislation to outlaw fake news with a 10-year jail term for offenders, in a move slammed by critics as a bid to crack down on dissent ahead of a general election.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has been dogged by a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal involving an indebted state fund, and rights activists fear the new law could be used to criminalize reports on government misconduct and critical opinions. A general election must be held by August but is widely expected in the next few weeks.

The bill, tabled for parliamentary approval Monday, will penalize those who create, offer, circulate, print or publish fake news or publications containing fake news with a 10-year jail term, a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit (USD$128,000) or both.