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Palace meetings leave Malaysians with a heavy dose of fake news, and humour too

From sham press statements to 'new' Cabinet line-ups, speculation and fake news has been circulating in liberal doses.

2 minute read

Dozens of doctored images and documents have been making the rounds on social media, giving Malaysians yet another dose of “news” on the “impending collapse of the government” in the wake of a series of royal audiences granted to opposition politicians by Istana Negara this week.

From fake press statements claiming the withdrawal of support by ruling parties for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to posters featuring pictures of a “new” Cabinet line-up, the bulk of material has been circulating on WhatsApp.

Much of it is premised on sarcasm and humour, a familiar take on current issues in the country.

This time, the psy-war has been kicked up a notch with politicians’ speeches turned into deprecating clips as a cloud of speculation continues to hover over the timing of the audiences, with the national vaccination drive gaining momentum in the push to achieve herd immunity by year-end.

Some have churned out posters including one comprising an array of pictures showing a prominent politician sweeping the floor outside the palace gates and another showing the same individual arriving to meet the Agong in a luxury car.

Others have turned to a cross between sarcasm and psy-war, exemplified in posters showing “new” Cabinet line-ups complete with politicians’ pictures and their future portfolios.

One such poster names Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, the Umno leader who was sacked from his chairmanship of national transport firm Prasarana last month, as the transport minister – one among the many politicians who would supposedly make up a new coalition government between Pakatan Harapan and Umno.

Some material meanwhile has fallen squarely in the fake news category including a page from a joint press statement by PAS and Warisan – parties that are unlikely to team up over any issue.

The statement, which bore the signatures of the parties’ secretary-generals, said the Islamist and Sabah-based groups were backing Foreign Minister Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to replace Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

This explosion of humour and fake news comes almost three months after PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim’s admission in March that he had entered into negotiations with Umno for a possible alliance.

Anwar was also the target of digital humour in September last year, when he announced that he had “strong” and “formidable” numbers to form the government on the back of the Sabah election campaign.

MalaysiaNow reported in March that digital humour was fast replacing traditional methods of political propaganda.

And with the lockdown still in place, many creative minds will have enough time on their hands to come up with more content in the coming days.