Take swift action to stem fake news


I WATCHED a video posted by Isham Jalil, who is best known for being a special officer to then prime minister Najib Razak, where the so-called transcripts following his video, indicating “dissatisfaction” or maybe unhappiness with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was making a visit at a Ramadan bazaar in Putrajaya on Wednesday. 

A man, said to be a fruit juice seller, can be heard in the video shouting at the top of his voice while the prime minister was visiting the stall owners there.
 
The words that followed as written by Isham (I do not know this fella but have seen his writings occasionally on Facebook) were “Tak malu ke? Hari-hari kami kerja, hari-hari kami turun…!”, “Hujan panas kami turun. Tak payahlah Tan Sri (tak jelas), “Tan Sri jalan pergi! Tan Sri jalan pergi…!” (Aren’t you not ashamed? Every day, we work, every day we go down, rain or shine, we go down, no need Tan Sri (not clear).”

Hours later, I watched another video of the fruit juice seller denying he had shouted abuse at the prime minister; another trader came to the man’s defence, adding what Isham had done was malicious and  slander.

The trader said the words he shouted were his “business trademark” to attract customers. 

The words that could be deciphered from the video were: “Padu punya, hari-hari kami menjual, hari-hari kami pulun, hujan panas turun, tinggal tak banyak dah, atas meja ja lagi, atas meja ja lagi (mouth-watering, every day we sell, every day we do our best, rain or shine, not many left, here on this table, on this table”).

Isham also wrote that Muhyiddin should have visited the man’s stall. 

Little did he know that the prime minister had, indeed, stopped at the man’s before the latter started shouting his business trademark, moments after Muhyiddin started walking elsewhere. 

A picture of Muhyiddin and the fruit juice trader can be seen on the prime minister’s Facebook page.

Many comments on Isham’s Facebook on the video indicate anger at him. 

There were also comments from those who said they were at the bazaar during Muhyiddin’s visit, telling Isham had, indeed, created a fake news and that he should be investigated by the police. 

Politics aside, some comments were that Isham, as a Muslim, should be able to tell between truths and lies. 

Others said he had slandered PM during this holy month of Ramadan.

So, don’t you think that what he has done is tantamount to malice, slander or publication of fake news? 

I am no lawyer but correct me if I am wrong. 

I do strongly believe that his ulterior motive is nothing but to create hatred, provocation and dissatisfaction towards the prime minister. Such fake news with bad intention should be dealt with severely, without fear or favour.
 
Hopefully, the rightful authorities like the police or the Communications and Multimedia Ministry could step in to investigate the matter without delay although Isham who seemed defensive, had uploaded another fb posting later to say that because of his video, the fruit juice seller had done a good business now! 

Whatever is his intention towards Muhyiddin and the present present, like other fake news offenders, the authorities should not hesitate to act.

Combating fake news, of course, has been very challenging for our authorities, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic rears its ugly head since last year, but no excuses should be given whatsoever to ensure enforcement of the law is done fairly and without prejudice. 

This is because fake news spread on social media and the WhatsApp application, could spark unnecessary, inconducive situations that we know very well like panic, hatred and restlessness among members of the public.

The relevant authorities should step up and be able to do more in countering fake news under present laws as well the newly minted emergency (Essential Powers Ordinance (No.2) 2021 which came into effect last month. 

If at all it could lead to disharmony in this country, the offenders must be acted upon accordingly and swiftly. 

Of course, in matters of democracy, people have the right to criticise but if it involves fake news, no matter who spreads it, they must be held accountable.
 
The fight against Covid-19 is far from over, with the number of cases still hovering at four digits daily. By now, we should have accepted the fact that fake news is detrimental in curbing the spread of the virus. 

We should all stop such news for goodness sake as it will only put us in a state of considerable flux, a bad one for that matter.

So how do we fight lies, tricks and chaos online? 

Of course, it is not as simple as following a checklist but to me personally, active and consistent investigation on fake news by the relevant authorities would help, in one way or another and to a certain extent, to minimise the problem.
   
With the fourth wave of the pandemic imminent, as responsible citizens, we should be able to play our respective role by toeing the line, rallying to government’s calls to win the battle, not making things getting from bad to worse. 

Whether we like it or not, fake news, like the pandemic and the endless politicking, will only cause us more discomfort and misery. – April 16, 2021.

* Mohd Adam Mohd Hashim reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.



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