BANGI: Fake news and other destructive content are a threat to our reading culture, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Malaysians, he said, had not turned away from reading.
But he said digital influence on society was the biggest challenge in promoting the habit.
Dr Mahathir, who is also the acting Education Minister, said the source of reading materials had changed, and this had given rise to the problem of fake news.
“Today, almost all newspapers and books have digital versions. The digital influence is so great that traditional reading materials are increasingly being sidelined.
“Free of restrictions, vast reading resources in the digital age are being used to spread fake news and other destructive content that is detrimental to society. It’s worrying, ” he said.
“Distinguishing between what is fact and fake, and what is produced from research as opposed to something that’s not done properly, are the main challenges to our reading culture, ” he said when launching the National Reading Decade at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia here yesterday.
“This is why programmes to promote reading must be carried out systematically. To create a knowledgeable and well-informed nation, we must reach all levels of society. And our efforts must be continuous, ” he said, adding that this was crucial to the success of the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.
He said the country’s book industry must be competitive to fulfil the needs of readers as we move towards Industrial Revolution 4.0.
Publishing quality reading materials must be a collective effort, he said, adding that writers, editors and publishers must be actively involved.
He said the purchasing power of readers must also be taken into account in creating an accessible, competitive and affordable market for books.
Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Mohd Gazali Abas, in his speech, said Malaysians only read 15 books per year compared to 40 in developed countries.
“The National Reading Decade, which is from 2021 to 2030, encompasses reading activities, infrastructure development, book fests, teenagers and children, digital and e-books, and lifelong learning, ” he said.
“The slogan #Malaysiamembaca will be used to help us achieve our aspiration to become a reading nation.”