KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Wednesday (Apr 11) that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is open to criticisms, but that must not lead to the spread of fake news or false information about the government.
“We want to develop a matured democracy. We can criticise the government, but do not spread fake news (about the government),” Mr Najib said at an event to celebrate the first National Journalists' Day.
Wednesday also marked the day Malaysia's anti-fake new law came into effect. The controversial Bill was fast-tracked in Parliament after it was tabled last month.
Highlighting the importance of tackling fake news in light of the upcoming 14th general election, Mr Najib cited the example of allegations in the last election that the BN had brought in 40,000 phantom voters from Bangladesh.
The turned out to be fake news, he said, adding that if this were true, a number of 747 jumbo aircraft would be needed to bring the Bangladeshis to Malaysia.
Unfortunately, without any solid evidence, many chose to believe the news, including those who called themselves the urban intellectuals, said Mr Najib.
“Hopefully it will not recur in GE14, but I'm not all that optimistic. There will be stories.
“We are entering the silly season in a couple of days’ time. During this season, silly and irrational news stories will come out. These news stories do not make sense, but when spread, people tend to believe,” said Mr Najib, who is also BN chairman.
The prime minister also expressed hope that media practitioners in the country will play their part in disseminating the truth.
Additional reporting by Melissa Goh