No need for new laws vs fake news - media experts


Posted at Jan 30 2018 02:14 PM


Media experts on Tuesday told senators to focus on implementing existing laws to hold proponents of fake news accountable instead of crafting new laws to curb the spread of disinformation.

"I don't believe we should have more legislation but I think we should impose these existing laws and demand accountability," Rappler CEO Maria Ressa said during a Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media hearing.

"I believe that the laws are there and we should encourage people to use the law, fight for your rights, defend what you need to defend and use the full force of law, take legal action," Roby Alampay, editor-in-chief of broadsheet BusinessWorld and the now-defunct news site Interaksyon, said.

"We need to stop focusing so much [on] penalizing content producers because (when you apprehend one) there's going to be another person to take over... The long-term solution is media literacy programs," University of the Philippines Prof. Clarissa David said.

Ressa said there should be a collective effort to educate the public to counter a system of "patriotic trolling" or the "state-sponsored online hate and harassment campaigns (designed) to silence and intimidate."

"When people don't know what is real and fake, when facts don't matter, then the voice with the loudest megaphone gains more power," she said.

"The media cannot focus on producing in-depth reports if the task (to educate the public) is left to journalists alone," David added.

Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media chair Grace Poe said the Communications Department has been asking for a higher budget to hold more media literacy campaigns nationwide, but added that the task should be delegated to other institutions such as schools.

"We need an impartial group to roll out a program like this," Poe said.

The Senate started to hold congressional hearings over the issue of fake news last year after blogger Cocoy Dayao claimed that some pro-administration senators refused to sign a resolution against the killing of minors.

Other government officials who belong to the minority coalition also fell victim to fake news last year.

In January, Vice President Leni Robredo slammed netizens behind "LeniLeaks" or the series of posts that alleged that she was plotting to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

In June, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said some opposition senators may have had a hand in the Marawi siege after they were spotted meeting with some Maranao leaders weeks before the war in the Islamic City erupted.

It was later revealed that the alleged meeting took place in 2015 at the Iloilo International Airport.