KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 ― False news can have serious ramifications to Malaysia’s security and economy, said the prime minister tonight.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak cited the example of a claim made ahead of Election 2013 that 40,000 Bangladeshis would be brought in to vote, and said this caused alarm before the government could counter it.
"As what happened on voting day during GE13, when some of the society believed the government or Barisan Nasional brought in 40,000 phantom voters from Bangladesh," he said at the Malaysian Journalists Night 2017 here.
"But unfortunately when the truth surfaced, it was already too late and voting had already been carried out," he added.
He also said many were taken by the claim despite its seeming implausibility, adding it may have influenced voting decisions that could alter the course of the country.
Najib listed other recent instances of false news posing a danger to the country’s prosperity, such as allegations that he previously said jeopardised investments from Saudi Arabia's oil giant Saudi Aramco before Putrajaya made clarifications.
Another example of how fake news could have affected the nation's economy was alleged efforts to tie China's massive investments such as in the Malacca Gateway project to issues of Malaysia's sovereignty, he said.
"Where has foreign direct investment (FDI) ever been equated with questions of sovereignty? It has never been a question of sovereignty, FDI has always been about investment, creating jobs, generating more economic activities," he said.
He also questioned why similar concern about Malaysia’s sovereignty was not raised when an Indian company decided to invest in a port project here, asking why there was such "double standards".
Najib went on to say that claims Malaysia was a failed state or headed for bankruptcy are baseless allegations, insisting that the country has a "bright future" and reiterated his hopes for it to become among the world’s top 20 nations by 2050.
He highlighted the crucial role of the media to ensure truthful reports which he said would be used by the public to decide on what is beneficial for the country