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Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government will stand firm in its intention to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act 2018. Pic by NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government will stand firm in its intention to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act 2018.

He said Malaysia could do without the law for now as the people should know how to handle the spread of fake news.

"We made a promise to the people that we would do away with the Anti-Fake News law. That is what the people wanted and we respect the people who voted us into power.

"On the other hand, we know that at present, social media can be abused and it can be quite serious.

"For us, it means that we have to learn how to handle such fake news," he said during a joint press conference with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong after the 9th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat in Perdana Putra here.

Dr Mahathir said the government must not make use of the fake news law for its benefit, as this had been seen with the previous administration.

"When we have a law that prevents people from airing their views, we are afraid the government itself may abuse the law, as what has happened with the previous government.

"We do not want any government, this one and the succeeding ones, to make use of the law for the government itself to create and tell fake news in order to sustain themselves.

"Of course, fake news will be difficult to handle but we believe that we can accept the challenge and we can handle them," he added.

The Pakatan Harapan government had pushed for the repeal of the act since it was elected to the federal government in May last year.

Although the repeal was passed in the Dewan Rakyat, it was rejected by the opposition-dominated Dewan Negara last September.

Dr Mahathir's comments came following a question on Reporters Without Borders (RSF)'s criticism over the Singapore government's move to enact the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill (Pofma),while Malaysia was moving in the opposite direction.

When asked to comment on RSF's criticism of the act, Lee said Singapore was not not the only country to legislate such laws.

"The French have done so, the Germans have done so, and the Australians have just done something similar.

"Singapore has to do it, and we had a long process with a select committee which deliberated on it for almost two years.

"I'm not surprised that Reporters Without Borders criticises it as they criticise many things about Singapore's media management," said Lee, adding that Pofma would be a significant step forward for the republic.

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