Lifelong bookworm Dr M laments negative impact of digital age on reading habits

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launches the National Reading Decade at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi February 13, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launches the National Reading Decade at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi February 13, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

BANGI, Feb 13 ― Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has admitted that one of the challenges faced when promoting a reading culture is the influence of the digital world.

Dr Mahathir, who is also the acting education minister, said the impact of the digital world is so great that traditional reading has been neglected.

“Traditional reading sources such as newspapers and books have been neglected.

“So much so that many newspaper companies have shut because sales have declined, and books are just collecting dust in libraries and on shelves,” he said during his opening address at the launch of the National Reading Decade Programme at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia here.

However, Dr Mahathir, a known bookworm, said this does not mean that people have stopped reading, instead they are moving on to digital versions of newspapers and books.

But he also cautioned against relying solely on such sources of information as many have become an avenue to spread fake news.

“The worrying thing is that the source of the reading in the digital world is abundant without restrictions until it becomes a platform to spread fake news, and in return, is harmful to society.

“This is where the challenge of reading today is — to distinguish between true and false,” he said.

In Malaysia, the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) have detained 12 individuals throughout the country for posting fake news on the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Reported previously, the National Reading Decade is a 10-year long programme on the Education Ministry’s to-do list.

The programme aims to transform Malaysia into a reading nation by 2030.

Dr Mahathir added that the efforts to encourage a reading nation would also move towards supporting the Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) 2030.

“Efforts to promote a reading culture should reach across all layers of the society to encourage a knowledgeable society.

“This will be the catalyst and a pillar of the SPV 2030,” he said. 

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