False info online a 'threat to Total Defence'

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen (second from top right) with pupils from Yishun Primary School who are performing in the Dynamic Defence Display finale of the National Day Parade National Education Show 2, a preview of the parade for Primary 5 pupils.

SINGAPORE - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Friday warned of a new threat to Singapore's Total Defence efforts - distorted or false information, rumours and smears that surface on the Internet.

Those who intend Singapore harm would spread such misinformation "to weaken our resolve and cause disunity", he said in an address at the Total Defence Symposium. Online misinformation could spread widely during tense or volatile situations, causing confusion and chaos.

"(They may try to) divide you, so that even if you want to mount a response, you can't," he said.

During the recent haze - Singapore's worst ever - blogger Ravi Philemon's allegation that none of the Government's nine million N95 masks was for the public caused a stir online.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim later cited it as an example of online rumour-mongering that caused unnecessary public anxiety.

Dr Ng said that Singaporeans "themselves must be more discerning about the information they read on the Internet", and that they can help counter and stop misinformation from spreading.

Earlier, he spoke of the times when Singaporeans united to pull through, such as the recent haze and the 2003 Sars crisis, which showed that the country's Total Defence efforts were working.

More than 500 organisations received awards yesterday for their contributions to Total Defence - for instance, adjusting work so that NSmen employees could go for in-camp training without worry.

"Without your strong support and unstinting commitment to National Service, we won't have a strong SAF as we have today, capable of defending Singapore," Dr Ng told the gathered employers at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia hotel.

davidee@sph.com.sg

 


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