MANILA — Self-regulation and digital literacy are the best antidotes to fake news, according to advocates of freedom of expression in Southeast Asia.
Self-regulatory mechanisms by media organizations, bloggers, and social media platforms are the best way to prevent the spread of malicious and damaging information in the country, said lawyer Gilbert Andres, chairperson of the Advocates for Freedom of Expression Coalition – Southeast Asia (AFEC-SEA).
“News organizations have its internal ombudsman that will monitor the accuracy, fairness, and balance of news reports,” Andres said during a regional forum on fake news and freedom of expression in Makati City Friday.
“Bloggers can verify information through fact-checking,” he said.
For his part, David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur “on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” urged the media to be on alert against the dissemination of false information through digital literacy.
“Journalists should cover fake news stories because of their relevance, and fact-checking organizations should address disinformation and propaganda, not only after the fact, but they should develop tools of debunking fake news,” he said in his video message at the forum.
Urging stakeholders across Southeast Asia to provide accurate news reports on public health, environment, among others, Kaye said intermediaries, such as media organizations and social media platforms, must not be held liable for third-party content.
“Media should appropriate self-regulation that would uphold the highest standards of accuracy,” he said. “All stakeholders should be involved in fighting disinformation.”
A bill seeking to impose strict penalties on media groups and social media platforms that spread information that intend to cause panic, division, chaos, violence, and hate or exhibit propaganda to ruin one’s reputation has been filed at the Senate.
Under Senate Bill No. 1492 or An Act Penalizing the Malicious Distribution of False News and Other Related Violations, any mass media enterprise or social media platform that fail to neglect, remove or refuse false information within a reasonable period of having knowledge of its falsity shall be punished by a fine ranging from PHP10 million to PHP20 million and imprisonment ranging from 10 to 20 years.
“The Philippines has the obligation to promote and protect the free marketplace of ideas. We should not criminalize fake news, as this curtails the freedom of expression,” Andres said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier stated that he will not sign the bill into law once it passes Congress, as this will undermine the right to freedom of expression.
The President instead suggested that legislators craft a measure that would impose stiffer penalties on individuals, who spread false news. (PNA)