PUTRAJAYA (Bernama): The attitude of some individuals who prefer to read and trust sensational news on social media without verifying its authenticity or truth has contributed to racial unity in the country becoming more fragile, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy (pic).
He said the situation was made worse when some people misused the freedom of speech granted by the government to spread false information to create misunderstanding and tensions among the people of various races in the country.
"Not only in our country, but all over the world, social media has become a major medium to disseminate news, including false and inaccurate news.
"Before, the media was controlled by certain groups, but now with borderless information, some people think they have the power to disseminate their own personal ideologies and opinions.
"They don’t read many newspapers, or authentic news and books, instead preferring (to read) sensational news. When they are impressed with the news, they will viral it immediately, ” he said in a special interview with Bernama in his office here recently.
The minister, who is responsible for the National Unity and Social Well-being portfolio, said this group of people had no care to find out if the news was real or fake.
They are not interested to know the truth, but are happy and more interested to get sensational news across to Internet users, he added.
Waytha Moorthy said some of the issues raised on social media had undermined the country’s harmony and it had become one of the main challenges facing the Pakatan Harapan government, where precautionary measures had been taken to safeguard the interests of all parties.
The minister also expressed his sadness over the actions of previous government leaders for deliberately raising certain issues to build up anger against the current government for their own political survival.
"Therefore, it is the responsibility of the people to remain focused and to live as citizens who practice diversity in a pluralistic society. We have to live with each other and as long as we are focused, we can accept what we have practiced before, ” he said.
The issue of abuse of social media was also raised by AirAsia Group Bhd chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes on Sunday (Jan 12), saying too many negative things, falsities and outrages on the platform had led him to think of shutting down his Twitter account.
Commenting further, Waytha Moorthy said the people, especially those in the peninsula, should emulate the close relationships and tolerance of the various races in Sabah and Sarawak, enabling them to live in harmony without suspicion for one another.
He recalled his visit to Sarawak and Sabah and was impressed by the understanding and respect for religious practices and cultural diversity displayed among the people of the two states.
He said the ministry would take into account suggestions from community leaders in Sabah and Sarawak in formulating a new policy to enhance national integration between the people in the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak.
In addressing racial and religious issues, he said the ministry hoped to set up a special commission known as the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission to act as an independent body that would resolve sensitive matters on race and religion.
"This matter is still at the proposal stage and I am looking into the practicality of using existing laws, including the Sedition Act and the Penal Code, to resolve related issues raised on social sites.
"This is because I find that some of them are unaware that their postings are offensive to other religions and in this case, the Commission will call on the relevant parties to explain it to them, ” he said. - Bernama