We are living in the era of fakeries - fake news, fake committee on fake news, fake news analysis, fake elections, fake patriotism and even fake oaths

This is the era of fake news, fake news analysis, fake committee on fake news, fake elections, fake patriotism and even fake oaths.

With the approach of the 14th General Election in a hundred days, Malaysia is awash with fake news, defined as a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of lies, deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media designed to incite hatred and poison the minds of the people.

There is now a proposal for a Fake Committee on Fake News headed by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Azalina Othman with representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Police and the Ministry of Multimedia and Communications.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has warned that the creators and propagators of fake news will be punished for the wrongdoings but human rights groups and NGOs in Malaysia fear that free speech would be further curtailed by the proposed legislation to curb fake news.

No one would disagree that fake news designed to incite hatred and poison the minds of the people, which affect both the government and opposition, must be dealt with swiftly and severely, but what credibility has the Azalina Fake Committee on Fake News that it will not end up as a latest weapon to arm the UMNO/BN government with new powers and instruments to harass and persecute dissent in the country?

For the past year, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia has a special fact-checking website to combat fake news called sebenarnya.my.

Can the Minister for Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Salleh Syed Keruak give the country a report on the achievements of this special government website to combat fake news, in particular to let Malaysians know how many and what were the fake news against Opposition and NGO leaders this government website had debunked?

One reason why there must be a change of Federal government in Putrajaya, the first time in 61 years, is because national institutions in the country like the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission have lost their independence, impartiality, efficiency and professionalism giving rise to selective prosecution and investigations while they turn the blind-eye to blatant and flagrant crimes and corruption like the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB kleptocratic money-laundering scandal.

It is an incontrovertible fact that in Malaysia today, the biggest manufacturer of fake news and false information is none other than UMNO/Barisan Nasional government, led by none other than the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, himself.

I am one of the biggest victims of Najib and UMNO/BN manufacture of fake news – and even the UMNO General Assembly had been used as platforms for Najib to disseminate such fake news, as for instance, Najib’s trio of fake news at the UMNO General Assembly in the past two years, viz: that

  1. That the 14th General Election will be a contest between UMNO and DAP;
  2. That the DAP is anti-Malay or anti-Islam;
  3. The “nightmares” Malay will suffer if UMNO loses power in the next general elections.

In 2001, my 15-year-old grandson was the victim of malicious “fake news”, that he had sexually molested a fellow girl student in his school, and photographs and identity of the girl was even disseminated – an international chess play Anya Corke from Hong Kong, who had never met my grandson and was not even in the country.

No action had been taken against those who perpetrated the “fake news” against my grandson, although a police report was lodged by his father, Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng seven years ago.

Would there be such inertia and inaction if the victim of the “fake news” allegation of sexual molestation had been the son of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister or the UMNO/BN political leaders?

But we seem to be in the era of fakeries - fake news, fake committee on fake news, fake news analysis, fake elections, fake patriotism and even fake oaths.

Members of Parliament are all required to take an oath of allegiance to faithfully discharge their duties as Members of Parliament to the best of their ability and to “bear true faith and allegiance to Malaysia and will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”.

But yesterday, a political party leader with MPs and State Assembly representatives in the various State Assemblies openly advocated an obnoxious political system which undermines the very basis and most subversive of the fundamental principles of the Constitution which they had sworn to “preserve, protect and defend”.

We are living in very trying times.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah