Malaysia approves anti-fake news bill ahead of elections

Malaysia's parliament has passed a new law prohibiting fake news that critics fear will be abused to silence dissent ahead of a general election.

Despite criticism from opposition lawmakers that the anti-fake news legislation will lead Malaysia closer to dictatorship, the bill was approved Monday after a heated debate with 123 lawmakers voting for it and 64 against. The bill originally proposed a 10-year jail term and a fine of up to up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) for offenders, but the government later reduced the maximum prison sentence to six years.

Rights activists say the law appears aimed at shutting down discussion of a multibillion-dollar financial scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is widely expected to call for national elections in the next few days.