Unrestricted digital material can be fake news that destroys society

KUALA LUMPUR : The abundant unrestricted reading material in the digital arena can be a source of fake news and other content that can destroy , Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

Dr Mahathir, who is acting Education Minister, said this is where the Government and everyone else face the challenge of having to differentiate between the truth and the fake, and to determine whether the content was derived from research or concocted at one’s whims and fancies.

“One of the challenges we face today in encouraging the reading culture is the digital influence on society. This digital influence is so huge that traditional reading sources such as newspapers and books are increasingly sidelined.

“Many newspaper companies have had to wind up due to dwindling sales and books are now gathering dust in libraries or on shelves. This, however, does not mean that the people have stopped reading. What has changed is the source of the reading material.

“In fact, today, almost all newspapers have a digital version and books have also been published digitally. In that respect, the reading culture is still very much alive,” he said in his speech at the launch of the National Reading Decade (DMK) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Bangi near here.

Commenting on the importance of a reading culture, Dr Mahathir stressed that it was a way to obtain and boost knowledge which is the basis for mankind’s self-development.

He said through the reading habit, a person will not just enrich himself with all sorts of knowledge, but he will also able to pass it on well and effectively.

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“From the science aspect, the reading habit is an effective form of mind exercise and training besides strengthening the human brain network and encouraging the development of nerves.

“And if we read something over and over again, what we read becomes embedded in memory and is not easily forgotten. Reading a lot will enhance a person’s emotional intelligence (EQ) and increase the intelligence quotient (IQ).

“Both these elements are very important as they enable a person to be in control of situations and grab the opportunity to develop,” he said at the event which was also attended by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.

Dr Mahathir said to create a knowledgeable society, the programme to make the reading habit a culture must be systematically designed and extended to all levels of society in the country.

He said the programme must be on-going and implemented with full commitment to create a knowledgeable society and be the catalyst towards the Shared Vision 2030.

“To achieve this objective, we must ensure that the book industry in this country is competitive and can meet the needs of the readers, especially in preparation for the Industrial Revolution 4.0

“To build the reading habit, there must be efforts to publish quality reading material and to meet the nation’s needs requires the cooperation of various parties, including writers, editors and publishers who must be actively included in this initiative,” he said.

The Prime Minister added that the purchasing power of the people must be taken into consideration in the effort to build a competitive book market and ensuring their accessibility to the reading material.

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