IN an offensive against the tide of fake news, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak insists the country is not turning into a failed state as widely alleged by critics of his administration.
In calling on foreign and local media to lead the fight against fake news, Najib said such perceptions stemmed from misinformation that turned truth into a “purely subjective” matter having little relation to facts.
“We are far from immune to this problem (of fake news) here in Malaysia. We have had former leaders talking about Malaysia going bankrupt,” he said during the 16th Asian Media Awards organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), as quoted by national news agency Bernama (via Kuala Lumpur Post).
“We have had people talking about Malaysia being in danger of becoming a failed state. And unfortunately, when the government’s opponents spread fake news, some people believe them, because they believe – wrongly – they would not lie,” he said.
Without naming the critics, Najib likely alluded to his predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad and US newspaper The Wall Street Journal, who he claims fabricated lies about the Malaysian government.
“A well-known foreign newspaper has taken to printing complete lies about the government. They did that, for instance, about the appointment of a new governor for Bank Negara last year,” Najib said.
He accused the paper of involving then king in the story despite the fact they didn’t have “a shred of evidence,” claiming the report was based “solely on nameless, anonymous sources who may not even exist.”
He went on to suggest some media outlets “brazenly ignore” sources that “don’t fit part of their narrative,” and allow themselves to be “used as media proxies of those seeking to interfere in a sovereign nation and change a democratically-elected government mid-cycle.”
“Their supposed journalistic ethics evaporated in their selfish quest for personal fame,” he said.
Najib is believed to have been referring to the WSJ‘s series of exposes on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal in which he has been implicated following reports of a US$700 million deposit into his personal bank accounts.
Refuting notions of a withering economy, Najib said the government had secured a large amount of foreign direct investment, which was evidence Malaysia was still considered a good place to do business.
“In fact, BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania recently published a report in which they named Malaysia as the best country to invest in. They said we were the clear frontrunner. Does that sound like a failed state to you?” he asked.
Despite the economic downturn Malaysia faced owing to a decline in worldprices of oil – a prime export – Najib said the country recorded a healthy growth of 4.2 percent in 2016.
“We expect a slightly higher figure for this year, and for it to rise in 2018. These figures show Malaysia growing at more than double the rates the IMF (International Monetary Fund) predicts for advanced economies over the same time period.”
Najib said in the past seven years, 1.8 million jobs had been created, of which over one million were in the high-income bracket. He said Gross National Income increased by nearly 50 percent, while poverty had almost been completely eradicated, reduced to only 0.6 per cent.
“We have kept inflation and unemployment low, and have been acclaimed by global institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF for the reforms we have undertaken,” he said.
On press freedom, Najib said, according to Bernama, free speech was “thriving” in Malaysia, pointing to the regular criticism of government, ministers and officials in the media.