Malaysia passes law to scrap anti-fake news act – after debate which saw bickering and ‘sexist’ remark made

The Bill was passed when 92 MPs voted for the law to be abolished while 51 were against it.
The Straits Times

The Anti-Fake News Act (AFNA) has been repealed by the Malaysian Parliament yet again, the second time in a span of 14 months.  

According to The Star, the Bill was passed when 92 MPs voted for the law to be abolished while 51 were against it after two days of debates and resistance by the Barisan Nasional (BN) opposition.

It was Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) second attempt at repealing the AFNA since coming into power in May 2018, as it was rejected by the BN coalition-controlled Upper House last year. 

Under Article 68 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, the Bill cannot be rejected again as the Upper House cannot block what has been approved by MPs for a second time. Even if there is an attempt to block it in Senate, the Bill will automatically be passed to the King for approval. 

According to the Bill, the provision to repeal the AFNA was due to a change in government policy that fake news can be combated with existing laws.

According to Bernama, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa, said during the parliamentary debate that the PH government was committed to repealing the Act because it “did not want anyone to be victimised by it”. 

He said that “it has elements that are draconian and can be abused” and added that while one person was charged and punished under the act while BN was in power, no cases were tried under PH rule. 

Offensive remark

The Star reported that at one point, Mohamed Hanipa was interjected by MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, who took her time to look for her glasses before speaking, and said that “I want to see you (referring to Hanipa) clearly, sometimes you look big, sometimes you look small“.

To this, Hanipa replied: “Sometimes even I can’t differentiate if you are a woman or a man”. This resulted in several opposition MPs jeering Hanipa, calling him an “irresponsible and low-class deputy minister”.

Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong also stood up and said: “He (Hanipa) clearly made a sexist remark and questioned the gender of a lawmaker. He must retract the statement”.

Eventually, Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon ordered Hanipa to retract his statement, to which he obliged.

Two opposition MPs then called for Rashid Hasnon to proceed with the vote without the need to hear Hanipa’s replies, as it would have resulted in a more heated exchange.

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