46-year-old native of Yemen Salah Salem Saleh Suleiman was sentenced to a week's imprisonment for publishing false information.
Bangkok, April 30, 2018-In a verdict with grave implications for press freedom, a Malaysian court today handed down the nation's first conviction under its recently enacted "fake news" law, according to press reports.
Malaysia began prohibiting "fake news" in April after its parliament passed a law that makes "maliciously" spreading or creating fake news punishable by up to six years in prison and a maximum fine of up to 500,000 ringgit (about US $128,000).
The dispute centers on a YouTube video in which Sulaiman said Malaysian police took 50 minutes to respond to calls reporting Palestinian lecturer Fadi al-Batsh had been shot in Kuala Lumpur.
Salah, who was not represented by an attorney, said he posted the video in a "moment of anger" but meant no harm.
The court sentenced Salah, who is of Yemeni descent and is in Malaysia on a holiday, to a week in jail from the day of his arrest and fined him RM10,000. Salah opted to spend a month in jail because he could not pay the penalty. "I agreed I made a mistake", he said.
Fake news is not just a problem experienced in the United States, but in other countries as well where it has been found that the propagation of fake news could somehow affected elections.
Malaysia's national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said their records showed a distress call was received at 06:41 and that police were on the scene eight minutes later. "I seriously apologise to everybody in Malaysia, not just in the Malaysian police", he said.
The law covers digital publications and social media and also applies to offenders outside Malaysia, including foreigners, if Malaysia or a Malaysian citizen are affected.
Governments elsewhere in south-east Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines, have also proposed laws aimed at clamping down on the spread of fake news, to the dismay of media rights advocates.
Media company Mkini Dotcom launched a legal challenge against the law on the grounds that it violates free speech and civil liberty.