Passing a law vs fake news 'dangerous,' UP prof says

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 05 2017 01:43 AM

MANILA - Passing a law that aims to control the proliferation of fake news may be dangerous both to those who spread fake news and to legitimate journalists.

University of the Philippines (UP) journalism professor Luis Teodoro believes a law that will penalize those who will spread fake news may violate people's right to freedom of expression and press freedom.

"'Yung idea na magpa-pass ka ng law to stop fake news, medyo peligroso, kasi, baka ang mangyari diyan, maging kontra doon sa Article 3, Section 4 ng Constitution, 'yung sinasabi no law may be passed abridging press freedom, freedom of expression and so on," Teodoro told DZMM.

"Ngayon, tama ba na i-legislate mo, ipagbawal mo, parusahan mo 'yung mga nagkakalat ng fake news? Ang tingin ko, medyo 'yung danger diyan, mas malaki kesa doon sa advantages," he added.

Article 3, Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that : "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." 

Teodoro also said that such law will be dangerous, especially if there is no clear definition of what fake news is.

"Kasi ang danger diyan, baka maya maya, sino, for example, unang una, sinong magdedecide kung ano ang fake news? Hindi yata malinaw 'yun ano," Teodoro said.

"So kung ang magdedecide kung alin ang fake news, kung ano ang fake news, sabihin na natin, isang government agency, eh medyo peligroso 'yun," he added.

For Teodoro, all governments have interests in positive news about it, which may affect their judgement on fake news.

"Kasi all governments, hindi ko sinasabing itong gobyerno lang natin, lahat ng gobyerno meron silang interes sa magandang balita ukol sa kanila. So pwede nilang sabihin, ipalagay natin, kinriticize mo, sinabi mong ganyan, na itong opisyal na ito, ganito, ganyan. Sasabihin nila, fake news 'yan. Paparusahan ka ngayon," he explained.

He also said that sometimes, it is the government itself that is the source of fake news.

"Ang isa pang problema natin na nakikita natin, kung minsan, 'yung source of fake news, ay galing sa gobyerno. Eh pag galing sa gobyerno ang fake news, sino ang parurusahan mo, 'yung media?" Teodoro said.

Teodoro also believes that bloggers who comment on public issues should be judged based on the ethical and professional standards of journalism.

"Kapag ginagawa mo 'yung trabaho ng journalist, you must be judged as a journalist. Ang ibig sabihin ngayon niyan, ano ang base noong judgement? 'Yung ethical at saka professional standards ng journalism 'yan," he said.

"Kailangan kung ikaw ay magsasalita ka about a public issue, magre-report ka, sinabi mo na ganito ang nangyari pero hindi pala 'yun ang nangyari, you should be held accountable for that," Teodoro added.

For Teodoro, journalists should adhere to the ethical and professional standards of journalism because of the impact of their work to society.

"Ang journalism, ang pamamahayag, mas malaki pa ang impact niyan kesa kung doktor ka o abogado eh. Kasi kung minsan, libo-libo ang tinatamaan sa mga sinasabi mo," he said.

The Senate committee on public information and mass media on Wednesday began tackling pending legislation against the proliferation of misleading news.

During the hearing, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, in a statement read by Communications Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, said public education is important to stop the spread of fake news. 

Several senators meanwhile slammed Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson for insisting that she does not need to get both sides of a story before publishing a blog post - the same she demands of the media. 

Uson defended herself by saying only the media have the obligation to be fair.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said the proposed law against fake news will not pass, calling the measure "censorship."