10 Years In Prison For Fake News, Is This Where Zimbabwe Should Be Going?

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar
Fake news problem on WhatsApp

Over the past several months ‘fake news’ has slowly become a buzzword that most if not all of us are aware of. If you follow developments in the US, you’ve probably come across Trump use the phrase on multiple occasions to address any story that he doesn’t agree with. What Trump defines as ‘fake news’ may be in question but the problem of ‘fake news’ is unquestionably real and has become a real concern. Last year we talked about how fake news was becoming a real problem, particularly on Whatapp.

Such a concern in fact, Malaysia is now trying to outlaw ‘fake news.’ The Malaysian Prime Minister has actually tabled a bill in parliament. According to The Anti-Fake News 2018 bill, anyone who publishes ‘fake news’ could face fines of up to $128 140, a ten-year jail sentence, or both. The Malaysian government has defined fake news as “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false.” This spreads to news mediums such as features, visuals and audio recordings on both digital publications and social media.

Why so harsh?

Upon seeing that it’s possible to get sentenced for up to 10 years you may be thinking that a ten-year penalty is too harsh but in all honesty, it might actually be fair. Fake news is not only affecting politicians but even businesses and individuals. Remember the message claiming that the man who had injected Cadbury chocolates with his HIV positive blood had been arrested? What do you think might have been the impact of that on Cadbury’s sales?

The impact of fake news can be far-reaching

The problem with fake news is that the impact of the fake news has impact in reality. When people consume news they form opinions concerning the people or brands in question and at the end of the day these opinions affect the companies bottom-line. One such example was a news story that claimed that an X-box One console killed a kid: According to the story the kid got his throat whilst ejecting a disc from the console. On the surface, this may seem like a trivial issue, but stories like this would impact X-box’s sales. A parent wanting to buy a console for their son/daughter may have wanted to buy an X-box but upon seeing that story instantly changes their mind. (The video game industry is a billion dollar industry: not as silly as you thought after all?)

When will we have laws preventing the spread of ‘fake news’?

Well, the issue of fake news in our country has yet to be discussed seriously in our country but going forward I think it is something that has to be addressed with more urgency than the issue has been afforded thus far. Some may prefer for us to ‘fix the economy first’ before we tend to minor issues such as ‘fake news.’ The current Minister of ICT and Cyber Security, Supa Mandiwanzira did note that the Cyber Security ministry was put in place to deal with fake news among other things so we will see what changes they propose on that front as they have been quiet thus far.

Governments will (most probably) abuse these laws!

The only problem with such laws is that they will give more power to already powerful leaders who will be able to get people who report on their activities in court. It’s a double-edged sword and in all honesty, placing laws to govern fake news might not be a very good move, especially if free speech is considered as important (which I think it is).

I guess for now the responsibility remains with publishers to try and give readers accurate content that is not misleading; until a more viable solution can be reached. What do you think about fake news? What may be the solution to actually curb the spread news or is this one of those things that can never really be dealt with? Let’s get talking in the comments


  1. Sagitarr

    In Zimbabwe the main source of fake news are the state media – Supa himself may end up in jail if this becomes a custodial offence. If not him then whoever runs these media houses which tell us of progress when all we see around us is retrogression or that we are in utopia when in fact we live in dystopia blah blah

  2. Dhara

    Fake news almost always is laced with sensationalism. It designed to have a dramatic effect on its consumers, that may encourage action or non action where one is required resulting in death or injury to people in a worst case scenario. So if you are practitioner of fake news be prepared to gain zero tolerance or sympathy from any sane person

  3. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    People are complaining about “fake” news. It is the person who believes the sometimes nonsensical news they receive and doesn’t verify it, that has the problem. Fake news is mainly a problem for ignorant people. When you read printed stories in H-Metro, or Kwayedza, you don’t believe all the articles. Yet when a person reads something on Whatsapp, they don’t question it despite it having no named author. Sometimes, it’s even labelled as unverified.

    The ignorant and gullible don’t want to shoulder the consequences of their own stupidity. If you are going to believe that an X-box disc can cut a childs throat, without even analysing the practicality of it, there is a strong possiblity you qualify to be labelled as stupid.

    1. TheKing

      I agree

  4. The voice of Truth

    I for once support this move. Remember that young lady who was accused by the ex-wife of her husband of injecting a 3 year old step child with her HIV positive blood? The story was so sensationalized and hyped that the young lady was arrested and spent a night in prison, only for the state to find out the where no injection marks or any signs of abuse whatsoever on the child and that the poor young lady was not even HIV positive in the first place! Though the young lady’s name was cleared in the courts, it is still very much tainted in the hearts of society and it is very difficult to rehabilitate the minds of an entire community. Not only that, I personaly am a Preacher, I have been accused of outrageious things that are unheard of! From facebook pages accusing me of murdering 50 people in cold blood and storing their bodies in a fridge somewhere to treason against governments! Accusations that must not be handled lightly and must not be trusted with social media, but instead must be handed over to the Police and all responsible state structures. But because someone has a gripe with you and has a celphone with internet connection, it is now easy for them to fomulate and create obsurd and wicked stories and peddle them as truth. I do not agree with many things my government does, but this move, this move is in the right direction! Africans, more so Zimbabweans are very gullible and we have many who are taking advantages of gullibility of the African mind to further wicked and destructive agendas, to their own selfish gain to such I say 10 years is not enough!

    1. TheKing

      Looks like you are confusing false accusations with fake news