Haze episode: Some cause anxiety by spreading rumours

Haze episode: Some cause anxiety by spreading rumours

SINGAPORE - Some mischievous individuals set out to spread rumours and cause unnecessary anxiety during the recent haze, said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim on Monday.

Their impact, he added, was amplified because of the Internet and social media. Still, he noted that Singaporeans largely helped one another.

The first of five examples of misinformation he cited took place on June 19, when the National Environment Agency (NEA) website said the Pollutant Standards Index was 321. Someone circulated an altered screenshot alleging that NEA had reported the PSI as 393.

Said Dr Yaacob: "This was a calculated and mischievous act, intended to undermine public confidence in the NEA."

On the same day, The Real Singapore website put up an article falsely attributed to Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng.

Someone had impersonated her to comment on the Government and Singaporeans' reaction to the haze, while the article was plagiarised from another netizen's Facebook comment, noted Dr Yaacob.

He also named blogger Ravi Philemon who, on June 22, alleged that a friend said nine million masks would be brought into Singapore, but none were for the public.

This was even as the Singapore Armed Forces and People's Association staff and grassroots volunteers were "working hard into the early morning" to ensure one million masks would be distributed from warehouses to community centres, to be given out to households the next day, he added.

In another case, someone accused Tan Tock Seng Hospital of jacking up the price of its N95 masks when the price remained the same. And on June 25 when rain and hail fell over western Singapore, someone alleged, "without foundation or basis in fact, that Singapore was receiving acid rain", said Dr Yaacob.

He assured MPs Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) and Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), and Nominated MP Tan Su Shan that the Government acted by declaring the rumours false on its Cut Through The Haze microsite, before they took root and caused further alarm and harm.

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