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First person convicted under Malaysia's fake news law
May 25 2018, 02:53 | Irvin Gilbert
Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman who is of Yemeni descent pleaded guilty to creating and publishing false news
But state officials claim police responded in just eight minutes.
The maximum punishment for spreading fake news is 500,000 Malaysian ringgit ($128,000) and 10 years in jail.
Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, 46, pleaded guilty to maliciously publishing fake news in the form of a YouTube video under the user name Salah Sulaiman and was sentenced to a week's jail and fined RM10,000.
He said he posted the video in a "moment of anger" and acknowledged his wrongdoing.
The legislation was approved by Malaysia's parliament this month despite public criticism that it was aimed at silencing dissent ahead of a May 9 general election. 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. "I agreed I made a mistake", he said.
The judge fined Sulaiman 10,000 ringgit ($2,522) and sentenced him to a week in jail, starting from the date of his arrest. Police have yet to identify the suspects, but believe they are still in the country. Salah opted to spend a month in jail because he could not pay the penalty.
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.
The Anti-Fake News Act can be applied to either video or audio and is meant to target "news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false".
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.
The man, who is of Yemeni descent and working as a horse caretaker in Denmark, became the first individual to be charged and sentenced under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 after the act was gazetted and came into effect on April 11.
A Malaysian media company filed a suit seeking to declare the law unconstitutional.
After the bill was announced, opposition lawmaker Ong Kian Ming tweeted that "the point of such a law IS to prosecute truth tellers by labelling them as purveyors of fake news".