Malaysia’s Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob has fallen victim to fake news claiming that he does not welcome Singaporeans to the country.
He said the false news, which has gone viral on social media, can cause a strain in the relationship between Malaysia and its southern neighbour Singapore.
“The truth is, our borders are still closed to everyone, including Singaporeans, so such news is malicious,” he said at his daily briefing on Malaysia’s coronavirus situation yesterday. “This act can sour the relationship between Malaysia and our neighbour Singapore.”
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri also noted that his voice had been doctored in the offending tweet.
“I have lodged a report with the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC),” he said.
Malaysia has closed its borders to foreigners since March 18, when it implemented a partial shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
And although it has since eased movement restrictions within the country, Malaysians are still not permitted to travel abroad.
Before the coronavirus curbs, hundreds of thousands travelled daily via land crossings between Malaysia’s southern Johor state and Singapore to work, deliver goods or attend school.
Singapore and Malaysia are in talks to ease travel restrictions between the two countries, while keeping the necessary protocols and safety measures in place in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Ismail Sabri, who is also the Defence Minister, said that as of yesterday, some 266 investigation papers have been opened by the police and the MCMC on fake news relating to Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
From that total, 179 are under investigation. Meanwhile, 30 people have been charged in court, 11 given warning notices and 18 have pleaded guilty.
The minister said there have not been any new investigation papers in the past two weeks, which showed that people were more aware about the dangers of sharing fake news.
“However, the police and MCMC will continue to monitor the spread of fake news. People are reminded to be careful before sharing unverified news,” he said, adding that the public could verify such news at the government fact-checking website.
Malaysia reported 43 new coronavirus cases yesterday, raising the cumulative total to 8,445 infections. Total recoveries stood at 7,311, or over 85 per cent of the total number of cases.
The Malaysian Ministry of Health reported one new death, taking total fatalities from the outbreak in the country to 120.