Malaysia's Senior Minister of Security, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, landed in hot waters after a video clip went viral on social media with him saying that Singaporeans were not welcome to his country. On June 13, in a press conference, he said that he fell victim of fake news.
The speech he gave in the video, according to him, was altered to suit a "malicious" agenda. In the clip, he was seen saying that Singaporeans who wanted to come to Malaysia via the Causeway to go shopping and fill petrol and have dinner were better off not entering his country.
Yaakob lodged a police complaint regarding the video. "Such things can strain the relations between our two countries. The truth is, our borders are still closed to everyone, including Singaporeans, so such news is malicious," he said.
"On this matter, I have since filed a report with the police and Communications and Multimedia Commission, for further action against the perpetrators of this fake news," he added.
The video clip of Yaakob, who is also the Defense Minister of Malaysia, was targeted for Singaporeans as people of Malaysia would recognize that voice was not his. "I know Malaysians may recognize my voice, but Singaporeans who are not watching the daily media conference may not realize it is fake," he added.
Talks of Border Reopening
This comes at a time when Singapore and Malaysia are in talks to reopen the border and allow people of both countries to resume work. Before Malaysia closed its borders on March 18 this year, thousands of people travelled between the two countries through the land crossing. Since then, Malaysia has eased restrictions for domestic travel, though people are still not allowed to travel abroad.
But as Singapore reopened for business on June 2 following circuit-breaker, industries asked Malaysian workers to resume work in the city-state. However, Singapore's National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that people coming from Malaysia would need to take COVID-19 test like travelers from other countries.
"Measures, safeguards and precautions have to be put in place to ensure the resumption of safe travel between Singapore and Malaysia, so we are discussing all these with our Malaysian counterparts, including exactly how many people, what kinds of protocols will be put in place and which industries will be involved," said Wong, who heads Singapore's COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, on June 8.
Yaakob also agreed that testing would be necessary to reopen borders between the two countries adding that such fake news could hamper the bilateral talks. "We are ready to ensure that they take COVID-19 tests. If that is the condition required by the Singaporean government, that they take swab tests, we agree," he said.
Spike in Coronavirus Related Fake News
As countries fight the Coronavirus pandemic, authorities are battling on another front — fake news related to it. Such news and social media posts have increased by many folds in all countries including Singapore and Malaysia.
In Malaysia, 266 investigations have been conducted so far over false news regarding COVID-19. Of those case, 179 are still under investigation while 30 have been prosecuted. Malaysian police also issued warnings to 11.
Singapore has been tough too in dealing with such posts and news. Authorities have issued takedown notice on multiple occasions while also pressed charges under Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).