Shanmugam: Fake news used to stir unhappiness in dorms

Some people have been spreading fake news about the situation in foreign worker dormitories to incite fear, panic and hopefully violence, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Wednesday.

These individuals, who the authorities understand are both local and foreign, have been circulating such falsehoods in the form of videos, photos and even doctored images of news channels, he said.

He cited a video clip circulating on social media which claimed that a Bangladeshi worker had committed suicide at a dormitory in Tuas because of lack of money and work.

On Tuesday, the police said the video was not recorded in Singapore and advised the public not to spread untruths.

Mr Shanmugam said such falsehoods are being circulated online to create fear and panic among the foreign worker community of about 300,000 people.

"It's to create panic. It's to create unhappiness, anger and, hopefully, violence," he said.

"And also to make our own people, Singaporeans, believe that... these foreign workers are being treated badly. It's a very malicious type of video."

Mr Shanmugam also noted that there was another video circulating of a fight in a dormitory between two men of South Asian origin.

"It was taken in a dorm in Dubai some time ago, but people try and pass it off as being taken in Singapore," said Mr Shanmugam.

Old photos of food packets served to foreign workers have also started re-circulating online, suggesting that the quality of food is bad, said Mr Shanmugam.

He added that Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has dealt with the food issue and food quality has "improved tremendously".

"But don't get me wrong, we are delivering several hundred thousand meals, three times a day, to the workers. Majority of them tell us that the food quality is good. I'm not going to say to you therefore every single packet is good or every single person is happy - not possible," Mr Shanmugam said.

But some people are re-circulating old photos or photos of food being thrown away in other countries to encourage foreign workers here to "come out and complain, even when there is nothing to complain about", he said.

"They don't realise that this is like playing with fire... You use falsehoods to foment trouble and make them angry, you don't know what might happen. There could be a serious law and order situation. This is serious, and we are looking at it seriously," said Mr Shanmugam.

The authorities will take action against those who deliberately spread such falsehoods.

"When it's clearly criminal, we will charge them," he said.

The Straits Times

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