Hefty penalties for false-election-related info

Anyone publishing false election information that could influence the election outcome and/or diminish public confidence will face hefty fines and/or jail term in one of 31 proposed changes to the Electoral Act 2014.

The penalty provision 144A, proposing fines of up to $50,000 and/or five-year imprisonment for offenders will be issued to offenders, a recommendation Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem says will “deter politicians and other actors from making poorly researched statements without any facts or evidence.”

The provision, which also has the backing of the Electoral Commission, also empowers the Fijian Elections Office to compel service providers to correct or remove such information.

“The creation and publication of false information, particularly on election processes harms the public confidence in elections,” Saneem said in his submission to the Fiji Parliament’s Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights this week.

In 2018, one political party official was found guilty of publishing false information regarding voter lists.

The 31 proposed changes to the Electoral Act 2014 is outlined in Bill 50 of 2020, one of three electoral-related bills that are being reviewed by the parliamentary committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. Bills 51 and 52 of 2020 also outline proposed changes to the Electoral (Registration of Voters) Act 2012 numbering 11, and the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act 2013 with 14 respectively – all of which totaling 56 proposed changes across the three electoral laws.

The Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections have presented their submissions to the committee, expressing their support of the recommendations. Political parties are expected to present their submissions over the next three days, beginning tomorrow.

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