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KUCHING, March 12: The Sarawak Barisan Nasional Backbencher’s Club (BNBBC) fully supports the proposal by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to introduce laws to curb fake news which are seen as a threat to political stability and public order.
Assistant Minister of Corporate Affairs Abdullah Saidol said due to the accessibility of social media and smartphones in the state nowadays, the proposed Anti-Fake News Act should be enforced quickly to supplement existing laws such as the Multimedia Act by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) as well as the police to specifically curb slanderous and fake news intentionally being viraled on social media.
“I have talked to my colleagues of BNBBC, and we all support this proposal. I hope this more specific law will be approved, not only to curb fake news but also to curb intentional misrepresentation. For example, ‘gambir’ Sarawak’s effects can last for five hours but allegations said only five minutes — that is wrong and is misleading.
“This kind of news is obviously fake. I hope with this law such news can be curbed and at the same time correct false perceptions of the masses,” he told reporters during an appreciation luncheon with the media here this afternoon.
The proposed law was suggested by Najib earlier this year during a function in Sabah. Najib said the move was necessary because the people could be instigated to hate the government or to cause uprisings due to the influence of fake news.
“We don’t want fake news to spread. This does not mean we control the Internet; the Internet is free but the freedom must exist with the elements of accountability,” he said.
He had said this to reporters after attending a function with federal and state civil servants in Sabah in January this year.
Abdullah, who is also the Chief Political Secretary to the Chief Minister, also reminded members of the media to always be vigilant in ensuring their facts are right, and to not hesitate to contact any Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians to cross check their facts.
Abdullah who is in charge of media relations for the state BN gave assurance that his colleagues will try to cooperate as best they can to accommodate the press.
“I cannot deny that some of my politician colleagues get upset when asked hard-hitting questions by reporters. In the next BN meeting I will address this issue and tell my colleagues about media ethics and to not be easily intimidated and upset when asked questions by the media.
“Also, I would like you media members to list out your challenges when covering our politicians and ministers’ functions, and where can we improve. I assure you that I will bring those up during the meeting as well and advise my colleagues,” he said.
Meanwhile, State Information Department Abang Sardon Abang Hashim said 50 per cent of the world’s current population of about 7.5 billion have access to the Internet.
Out of this figure, 2.78 billion or about 37 per cent are social media savvy, or have social media accounts.
“The Digital News Report 2017 revealed that Malaysians are the world’s largest users of WhatsApp at 51 per cent. We are also big-time users of Facebook, which is about 58 per cent and YouTube at 26 per cent.
“According to local social media consultant ORION, there are a staggering 1.3 million Facebook users in Sarawak alone, out of 13.3 million users in the country,” he said. — DayakDaily