In an unprecedented move, a Danish man on Monday was jailed for a week in Malaysia for breaking a law against 'fake news'. He is the first person to be punished under the contentious legislation, passed in early April.
Under the newly introduced law, people disseminating false news deliberately can be punished up to six years in jail and a hefty fine. The legislation had sparked heated debate among journalists and is seen as an effort to silence criticism of several ongoing scandals across the country.
The accused, identified as Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, has admitted the allegation against him. He has made and posted videos on YouTube accusing emergency services of responding slowly after a Palestinian Hamas member was gunned down in Kuala Lumpur.
Fadi al-Batsh, said to be a rocket-making expert, was on his way to dawn prayers on April 21 and was assassinated by motorbike-riding gunmen. His family blamed Israel's spy agency for the same. The Jewish state denied it's involvement in the murder.
Sulaiman, the 46-year-old of Yemeni descent, however, was not aware of the 'fake news' law and admitted his mistake while appearing before a court in Kuala Lumpur.
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"I agree I did a mistake because I didn't ask what the law of this country is," the news agency AFP quoted the Dane.
A two-minute-long video, showing him speaking in Arabic was played during the court procedure. In the clip, Salem is complaining about the slow response of the police and ambulance service after the shooting.
Authorities, however, have disputed his claims.
Judge Zaman Mohamad Noor awarded him one-week imprisonment and fined him 10,000 ringgit (Rs 1,66,225). If he cannot pay the fine, then he will have to serve another month in jail, the judge said.
The Dane, who had been on a 10-day visit to Malaysia, said he did not have enough money to pay the fine. He said he had three wives and six children.
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The law banning fake news has sparked concern the government is seeking to crack down on criticism, particularly with a general election looming on May 9.
Last week, the leading independent news portal Malaysiakini mounted the first legal challenge against the legislation, arguing it breaches constitutional guarantees to freedom of speech.