Shut down Jasa if serious about tackling 'fake news', gov't told

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If Putrajaya is serious about combatting "fake news," it should start by closing down the Special Affairs Department (Jasa), Senai assemblyperson Wong Shu Qi said.

Wong claimed that if the dissemination of "fake news" were to be made illegal, then Jasa director Mohd Puad Zakarshi should be the first person arrested.

"It is shocking that Puad called fake news a ‘severe crime,’ given the fact that Jasa has been the government's propaganda unit and has been disseminating misinformation.

"If the government is serious about stopping fake news and misinformation, Jasa should be abolished," she said.

According to Oriental Daily, Puad had claimed that spreading "fake news" is a crime, just like murder and theft, because it could result in a disruption to public order.

Despite being a government agency, Wong accused Jasa of dabbling in partisan propaganda by frequently disseminating anti-Pakatan Harapan content through its WhatsApp service.

Wong pointed to some recent examples, such as articles that bore the titles "Rafizi does not deserve public sympathy" and "Harapan incentives: Lies and rhetoric."

The second article accused the opposition of failing to live up to its election pledges, such as increasing the salary of federal civil servants.

"These things were not implemented because we didn't win the election and are still the opposition. Those promises fall under the federal government's purview.

"Yet Jasa manipulates it and uses its position to attack Harapan," she said.

Earlier this month, Putrajaya set up a special committee to study ways to criminalise "fake news".

Opposition figures have expressed concern that the partisan committee, composed of ministers, the police, the Attorney-General's Chambers, NGOs and lawmakers, is a guise to clamp down on dissent.

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