Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday criticised several outlets for spreading misinformation on the novel coronavirus outbreak and instructed the Ministry of Information to do more to eradicate fake news.
Speaking at a press conference at the Peace Palace on Thursday, Hun Sen said a deluge of fake news on social and traditional media was heightening paranoia around the virus’ spread.
“I ask the Ministry of Information to take action to stop the fake news. In Malaysia, three reporters were arrested [for spreading fake news]. We have not arrested anyone yet, but we might do it.
“In Siem Reap and Pursat, people who had posted fake news on social media were forced to sign a document admitting their mistakes,” he said.
He asked citizens to believe only information from the Ministry of Health. “The Ministry of Health is the ultimate authority on the issue,” the prime minister said.
Hun Sen criticised DAP Media and Heng Long, the president of the Khmer Artist Association, for irresponsibly spreading misinformation.
“It’s a shame that even the DAP News run by Soy Sopheap published [fake news]. He used to be a professional journalist and now also works as a commentator at BTV. Now I’m reconsidering if it is suitable for him to continue to work for BTV.
“It’s fortunate that he published the [fake] news on social media and not on BTV, so only DAP’s image was tarnished. He [Sopheap] has already apologised,” Hun Sen said.
Hun Sen asked citizens not to be afraid. “Leave your fears behind. All state institutions, factories, enterprises, markets, pagodas, churches, and mosques will remain open. Children must continue attending school as usual. Please don’t be afraid and send your children to school,” he said.
However, the prime minister called for better hygiene standards at schools and asked the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to work with the Ministry of Health to teach children good hygiene habits.
“Hygiene standards in schools must be improved so that parents feel their children are safe at school,” he said, adding that parents that do not give in to fear and continue bringing their children to school deserve praise.
The prime minister also called on shop owners to refrain from raising the price of face masks. He said the government will request factories to bump up their production of face masks to meet rising demand.
Ministry of Information spokesman Meas Sophorn said on Thursday that the ministry has issued a notice saying it will take legal action against those who disseminate fake news on the coronavirus.
“To all media outlets and institutions, please be careful when disseminating news on the spread of the virus. Verify your source with the relevant ministry or institution before publishing the information. Please make amendments if you have spread inaccurate news regarding the virus.
“Those that disseminate or share fake news or refuse to correct published news that is not accurate will face the law,” Sophorn said.