Disinformation reported in mainstream media: the new low of Malaysian media ethic in the post-truth era

A mainstream newspaper China Press has published a piece of “disinformation” about a DAP meeting recently by quoting a questionable Facebook post created an anonymous and possible fake account. This is the new low of Malaysian media ethic in the post-truth era when a mainstream media allowed themselves to be deceived by a fake account on social media.

First of all, I would like to clarify that at the closed-door DAP elected representatives dialogue in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, it was agreed that the secretary-general should be the only official spokesperson.

However, since Tuesday, certain “news” were reported by some media. One or two had some semblance of truth but most were conjectures and even outright lies.

Since then, there were reporters on standby who had wanted my comment on the “fake news” but even before I said anything, they decided not to ask me. Perhaps they too knew that such a news was fake and dangerous for society. But many members of the public have been deceived into believing such a news.

We know fake news exist in social media, or as it was before, in kopitiam and mamak stall gossips. But when a mainstream media – our last bastion of truth – resorted to fake news, this is a bad sign indeed.

The mainstream media, including the increasingly popular online news portals, should do their best to stop disinformation, and not to amplify distorted truths.

I believe there is an urgent need for the government, the mainstream media, NGOs and other stakeholders to conduct media literacy training not only for ordinary social media users but also media practitioners.

While we wait for such training to commence, I hope we can start to educate ourselves to protect from being victims of fake news and distorted truths.

As an ex-journalist, I would like to share with media practitioners and readers/audiences my personal checklist on verifying news and articles before believing them and/or sharing them:

  1. Who is the author of the information? Is he/she the professional in the topic? Will I be able to contact him/her to verify the truth?
  2. What is the nature of the website/page/publishers who published the information?
  3. Is there any related information? What is the source of citation? Do they have any interest by publishing the information?
  4. Source of the information
  5. Date of the information
  6. The appearance of the website: Is the language and introduction clear? What are the types of their advertisement? What is the objectives of the website? For instances, rumours and hearsays, sales, notice, lobby, control or threatening?

We are already in the post-truth era. Nobody can run away from disinformation unless we stop it now. If we fail to act fast, lying, deceiving and evil leaders will take control of our lives.

Wong Shu Qi
MP for Kluang
Media statement by Wong Shu Qi in Kluang on Thursday, 8th August 2019