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No mercy in fake news fight

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Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith has asked officials to closely monitor social media for fake news over the coronavirus and take action against perpetrators. Hean Rangsey

No mercy in fake news fight

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday lashed out at Facebook users posting false information about the coronavirus, noting legal action will be taken against them with zero tolerance.

Hun Sen’s comments followed orders from Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Monday for officials to closely monitor social media for fake news over the virus and take action against the perpetrators.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for work on National Roads 2 and 22, Hun Sen said educational measures will not be used on those who have bad intentions.

“The page named ‘Real news from Cambodia’ says hundreds of people died of new coronavirus infections, but the government did not show the death toll. When you post this false information, how are you getting benefit from spreading this false information? You will be jailed if in the country,” he said.

“Of course, I have asked for educational measures, but those are for those who have posted the information and have then retracted the information after making a correction. In such cases, legal measures should not be taken, but educational measures.

“But in case someone is knowingly spreading false information, legal action must be taken. If posting fake information from within the country, you can’t flee. It’s hard to run away. I’m just asking you, how much do you benefit from reporting fake information to scare people, including your family?”

On Monday, Kanharith led a meeting with Ministry of Information leaders and instructed them to keep a close eye on fake news being posted to social media about the virus. He said such posts affect security and cause chaos in society.

“All news media have to work together in the fight against fake news, which arises on social media resulting in social confusion, especially for new coronavirus misinformation published on some Facebook accounts and pages,” he said.

Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann said the ministry has a commission to monitor media such as newspapers, radio, TV and social media.

He noted current press coverage in newspapers and magazines was no longer the main priority in regards to fake news. Rather, the spread of false information on social media is a pressing issue which demands clear measures.

He said measures taken by the ministry include the use of a mechanism within the commission to monitor and share information when false reports spread online in order to take legal action.

“We have an inter-ministerial declaration with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. One of the ministries will take action in the event of irregularities and posting false information by inviting the person behind the post to make corrections before taking legal action,” Sovann said.

“If the Facebook page is not properly registered or is managed from another country, the Ministry of Information will inform the relevant ministry for further action,” Sovann added.

In addition to these mechanisms, he noted that Facebook has also announced its commitment to cooperate with Cambodia to take action against any accounts that spread false information regarding the new coronavirus.

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