Suu Kyi Warns Journalists to Avoid Social Media Rumors

myanmar-assk-aug-2013.jpg Aung San Suu Kyi answers questions from the media before a parliamentary session in Naypyidaw, Aug. 16, 2013.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cautioned journalists in the country to report accurately and objectively and not be driven by social media rumors, citing one recent online report claiming she was gravely ill as an example of dangerous gossip.

Speaking at a press conference at parliament in the capital Naypyidaw, the 68-year-old Nobel laureate said reporters should be careful, particularly when using posts on the social networking site Facebook as a basis for their news reports.

“I want to ask the media, what should be done about news posted on Facebook that comes from people posting whatever they want,” she said. “Some people believe it.”

“Nobody can stop them. All media have to think about this,” she said amid the growing popularity of social media in Myanmar as President Thein Sein embarks on a reform drive after decades of harsh military rule.

Some reports say about 80 percent of the country’s Internet users have a Facebook account.

'Who can we believe?'

Aung San Suu Kyi, who joined parliament last year as the head of the National League for Democracy (NLD), said rumors that had been circulating online about her health were not true and warned that reporters would not be considered trustworthy if they spread such claims.

“A few weeks ago, I heard that people posted I was deathly ill. I don’t understand why they posted this,” she said.

“Who can we believe? Can we trust the media?” she said.

Her NLD has faced a growing tide of online rumors aimed at slandering the party, according to Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group, including posts painting the party as pro-Muslim in the wake of sectarian violence that has rocked the country over the past year.

NLD Central Executive Committee member Nyan Win told the news group Friday that a rumor posted on Facebook claiming the party was using funds donated on Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday for the restoration of mosques was false.

Amid a rise in the spread of misinformation via social media, many accounts have been linked to spreading "reactionary propaganda" and personal attacks against the reform-minded government, opposition leaders, and journalists, the news group reported.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s comments warning reporters not to abuse social media came at the close of the current parliamentary session.

In the interim before parliamentary meetings resume in October, she will travel to Europe.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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