New Malaysian government repeals ‘fake news’ law

New Malaysian government repeals ‘fake news’ law
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The new government of Malaysia has repealed a controversial law prohibiting “fake news,” according to multiple report, in what is being called an important victory for human rights.

The repeal came down to a voice vote Thursday after six hours of heated debate in Parliament, The Associated Press reports.

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Some critics were concerned the law would be used to censor political dissenters, the news service noted, adding that the measure had been rushed through a month before the May 9 general election, and carried a maximum penalty of six years of jail time and $500,000 ringgit ($128,000).

Reuters reports that a variety of opposition leaders were charged under the act, including Mahathir Mohamad, who ultimately ousted former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Mahathir’s victory was the first transition of power since 1957, when Malaysia gained its independence from Britain.

Filipino lawmaker Teddy Baguilat, a board member from the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said in a statement that the repeal "not only shows that the (new) government is serious about its promises to strip controversial laws from the legal books, it also sends a signal to the wider region that positive human rights change is within reach,” according to the AP.

Baguilat also said Malaysia should repeal other laws censoring speech, such as its Sedition Act.

He added that he hopes the change will be followed by similar moves in other ASEAN governments.

“This must also be a wake-up call for other ASEAN governments to follow suit and ensure their legal codes are not used to restrict human rights,” he said, according to the AP.