Asia Minute: “Fake News” and Malaysia’s Election

Apr 11, 2018

Malaysian Houses of Parliament building
Credit CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / Wikimedia Commons

Election Day is approaching in a country where the leader is lashing out against what he calls “fake news.” He’s also calling to make his country “great.” The themes may sound familiar, but the country is far from U.S. shores. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The campaign slogan of Malaysia’s Prime Minister may sound like an echo. “Make my country great with BN”—the acronym of his political coalition.

Najib Razak faces some challenges in upcoming election for members of the national parliament and state legislatures.

On Friday, he dissolved parliament, and on Tuesday, Malaysia’s Election Commission announced the country will go to the polls on Wednesday May 9th. That’s unusual timing for Malaysia—where Election Day is usually a national holiday.

Critics say it’s a tactic to suppress voter turnout, and just the latest move to silence political opposition. Last week, Malaysia’s government suspended the country’s main opposition party because of “missing paperwork.”

The parliament also approved a law penalizing what it calls “fake news.” Offenders could be incarcerated for up to six years and fined heavily; although what constitutes “fake news” is not clear.

Najib Razak
Credit Malaysian government / Wikipedia

The law says it includes “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false.”

Malaysia’s Cabinet Minister says that could mean “anything that is not substantive, and dangerous to the economy and security of the nation.”

The Prime Minister still faces allegations of money laundering, fraud and personal gain through an investment fund he set up. And which is still under investigation by several countries, including the United States.