STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Malaysia election: Opposition leader Mahathir facing fake news charge

Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian prime minister turned opposition leader, is being investigated under a controv...

Posted: May 3, 2018 12:22 PM
Updated: May 3, 2018 12:22 PM

Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian prime minister turned opposition leader, is being investigated under a controversial anti-fake news law over a claim his plane was sabotaged, police have said.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Mazlan Lazim told reporters Wednesday a "fake news" case had been opened regarding Mahathir's claim, according to Malaysian state news agency Bernama.

A spokesman for Mahathir said they had seen the reports based on a police report, but had not heard directly from the authorities that he was under investigation.

Police reportedly opened an investigation into Mahathir after he claimed his plane was sabotaged on a campaign trip in the run up to next week's general election. At the age of 92, Mahathir made a surprise political comeback, jettisoning his former party in an attempt to wrest control from Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The country's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement Saturday it had found "no indication whatsoever of any sabotage" of Mahathir's plane.

"Allegations of sabotage against an aircraft are extremely serious, and could impact the reputation of Malaysian aviation and the country as a whole," the statement added.

Police did not immediately respond to CNN request for comment.

Controversial law

Passed last month, the Anti-Fake News Law 2018 makes it an offense to create, publish or disseminate any fake news or publication containing fake news.

Those found guilty under the law can face up to six years in prison and fines of up to $130,000.

The government has justified it as necessary for state security, but the law has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and opposition lawmakers.

Zaid Ibrahim, a former minister in charge of legal affairs, said the law was connected to the ongoing IMDB scandal, which has seen Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak accused of misappropriating massive amounts of money.

"This law is necessary for Najib, but not the country. He needs this to put fear in people, that they can go to jail if they criticize him," he told CNN last month.

Ahead of the bill's passage into law, Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch director, called it a "blatant attempt by the government to prevent any and all news that it doesn't like, whether about corruption or elections."

"(The Law) uses draconian penalties and broad language in an audacious and unprecedented effort to control discussion of Malaysia worldwide," he added.

Uncertainty over future

It is currently unclear what stage the fake news case against Mahathir has reached, police would not respond to extra requests for comment. A spokesman for Mahathir said they had not received any extra information.

James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania at Australia's University of Tasmania, said he doubted whether the government will pursue the case before the May 9 polling day for fear of sparking a backlash and spurring opposition support.

"If they're going to get him, they'll get him after the election, not during the campaign," he added. "The price they would pay is too high."

According to Reuters, a recent poll suggests Najib could retain power with a parliamentary majority, but lose the popular vote, as in 2013, thanks to Malaysia's first past the post (FPP) electoral system, whereby the candidate in each constituency with the most votes wins the seat.

"The majority of voters are in urban areas, and urban areas tend to be anti-government," Chin said. "By default you will have a majority of the voters, but under first past the post, it's not the popular vote that is important."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 119336

Reported Deaths: 3328
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds8109180
DeSoto734280
Harrison553785
Jackson488488
Rankin412386
Madison388094
Lee368682
Forrest313478
Jones298484
Washington2644100
Lauderdale2611135
Lafayette256043
Lamar234040
Oktibbeha206055
Bolivar205279
Neshoba1883111
Lowndes182862
Leflore173088
Panola172241
Sunflower165949
Warren156656
Monroe154873
Pontotoc151520
Marshall150530
Lincoln144859
Pike140956
Copiah139936
Scott128129
Coahoma126537
Union126025
Yazoo124534
Simpson124049
Grenada123139
Tate123039
Pearl River117960
Itawamba117827
Leake117042
Holmes115160
Adams110245
Prentiss109520
Alcorn105012
Wayne103422
George103020
Covington99729
Marion96944
Tippah95124
Hancock88128
Newton88128
Chickasaw87028
Winston85921
Tallahatchie85826
Tishomingo83141
Attala80927
Clarke78353
Clay71522
Jasper69817
Walthall64827
Calhoun63613
Smith60816
Noxubee60317
Yalobusha56616
Montgomery56523
Lawrence55314
Claiborne54216
Tunica53917
Perry52823
Carroll50912
Stone49814
Greene48218
Humphreys45817
Amite43413
Jefferson Davis42412
Quitman4246
Webster38213
Benton36911
Wilkinson34321
Kemper33415
Sharkey29115
Jefferson28110
Franklin2533
Choctaw2096
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 162720

Reported Deaths: 2735
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23940385
Mobile17123319
Tuscaloosa10602141
Montgomery10503199
Madison955798
Shelby760565
Baldwin676869
Lee664965
Calhoun476562
Marshall447451
Etowah441952
Morgan430835
Houston423934
DeKalb355429
Elmore327858
St. Clair311342
Limestone297031
Walker287493
Talladega276437
Cullman266525
Lauderdale240543
Jackson225317
Autauga212631
Colbert210232
Franklin209432
Blount200925
Russell19833
Chilton192332
Dallas189227
Dale184952
Coffee183611
Covington177329
Escambia175831
Clarke138717
Chambers138047
Tallapoosa137287
Pike136414
Marion110931
Barbour10559
Marengo104622
Butler101941
Winston94713
Geneva9427
Pickens89018
Lawrence88533
Bibb86115
Randolph84616
Hale78130
Cherokee76414
Clay76312
Washington75812
Henry7316
Lowndes72128
Monroe66310
Bullock65117
Crenshaw61230
Fayette59913
Perry5996
Cleburne5799
Conecuh57213
Wilcox57112
Macon54320
Lamar5235
Sumter48621
Choctaw39512
Greene34516
Coosa2173
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 47°
Columbus
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 47°
Oxford
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
Starkville
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather