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Information Dept Says News That "Instils Hatred Towards The Ruling Govt" Is Fake News

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has warned of stern action against online media portals that publish "confusing and inaccurate" articles regarding government statements.

Cover image via New Straits Times & Twitter @JPenerangan

A public service announcement posted on the Information Department's official Twitter account has defined news that is critical and "instils hatred towards the ruling government" as fake news

The announcement/advisory, titled "The Impact Of Spreading Fake News", cautioned that such reporting could cause "distrust in the ruling government and its leaders" given the current COVID-19 pandemic.

While citing CyberSecurity Malaysia as its source, JPM also defined "defaming the reputation of an individual, an organisation, and a nation" as fake news saying that it "sparks confusion and worry within the community as well as affects the sensitivity of the said individual, organisation, and country".

In other definitions that can be considered as possible fake news, the department said these are reports about country's "infrastructure and critical information", news on "extremist beliefs", report that "touches racial and religious sensitivities", and news that "contains elements of pornography, gambling, and fraud".

The advisory comes amidst a Twitter spat between Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and CNA's Malaysia Bureau Chief, Melissa Goh

Ismail Sabri, who is also one of the four Senior Ministers in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Cabinet, has accused Melissa of having "bad intentions" for her tweet about one of his statements.

In her tweet on 8 April, Melissa wrote, "No food for migrant workers in buildings under lockdown due to COVID-19. Malaysia minister says it's not the government's responsibility."

Her report was based on the Defence Minister's press brief on Wednesday, in which he said that "migrants in our country are the responsibility of their respective embassies."

According to Ismail, migrants can purchase essentials by placing orders at the operations centre.

However, he later tweeted to deny that he ever said "no food for migrant workers under lockdown".

The Defence Minister has since doubled-down

In his press briefing on Saturday, 11 April, Ismail said that stern action will be taken against online media portals that publish "confusing and inaccurate" articles regarding government statements.

While not taking any names during his press briefing, he said recently there have been many news reports involving official statements from the government which were inaccurate and unverified.

"We have been reading a lot of news coming from online media portals that publish incorrect and untrue news. Especially when it comes to official statements from the government," he said.

"We take serious note of these actions because untrue, inaccurate, and misleading news can confuse the public, and cause the rakyat to worry. We decided in our meeting this morning that MCMC and also the police will take stern action on news portals that broadcast and publish confusing (and) inaccurate news."

Meanwhile, the JPM advisory on fake news has come under scrutiny from PKR's Lembah Pantai Member of Parliament (MP), Fahmi Fadzil

Fahmi took to his official Facebook page to question the basis under which the department has defined news that is critical of the ruling government and its leaders as possible fake news.

He also asked, "which Act is the reference for determining what is "fake news" here?"

"Is the government saying we can no longer comment or be enraged when a minister says 'air suam' can help kill the COVID-19 virus?," he asked while referring to Health Minister Dr Adham Baba's misleading claim that drinking warm water can kill the coronavirus because it "doesn't like heat".

Dr Adham's claim, which he made during an interview on RTM, received widespread ridicule.

He highlighted recent decisions from the government that came under fire, asking if people's criticism them can be considered fake news

First, it was the Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, who received criticism from several health experts over a publicity stunt she pulled by wasting personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Then came the Higher Education Minister Dr Noraini Ahmad, who launched a TikTok competition to encourage people to stay home during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

"Or if when there are graphics released by the government that invites wives to address their husbands while mimicking the voice of Doraemon?" the opposition politician said in reference to the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development's sexist and misogynistic tips for women.

According to Fahmi, while the people are with the government in this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, "we all also want to speak up when there is a need to speak. Doing so is not fake news."

Back in March, Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff received flak for saying that female flight attendants should wear shariah-compliant attire:

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