Southeast Asian journalists unite to fight fake news

CAJ warns against legislation that might be initiated to combat fake news but will affect press freedom
Southeast Asian journalists unite to fight fake news

Representatives of media organizations from ASEAN member countries attend a conference in Bangkok on Aug. 21 to show their solidarity in the fight against fake news. (Photo supplied) reporter, Bangkok
August 27, 2018
Amid global concerns over the rise of so-called fake news, journalists from across Southeast Asia have called for joint efforts to battle the menace during a regional meeting in Bangkok.

In a joint statement, members of the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists (CAJ) stressed the need for sharing experiences and best practices "in coping with ... the scourge of fake news."

The organization noted that fake news has already created "chaos, feelings of animosity and even violence in many societies."

The journalists, however, cautioned against any legal measures or legislation that might be initiated to combat fake news but would also have reverse effects on media freedom.

The group emphasized that mainstream media must take the lead in the battle against fake news as it affects all aspects and layers of society.

In Singapore, media representatives noted that people have been duped by false information about food and health. In more serious cases, many were swindled through the systematic spread of fake news.

In Vietnam and several other countries in the region, "doctored photos and outright falsehoods" have caused confusion and chaos.

In countries where there are already serious political divides or religious conflicts, such as Indonesia and Cambodia, "fake news always has the potential to trigger confrontations."

The CAJ also noted that governments or state agencies "bent on scoring political gains ... can also be a source of fake news as much as individuals with sinister minds."

"What happens in the Philippines is a grim reminder," read the group's statement referring to repeated mistakes committed by the country's information officials.

While the proliferation of fake news may continue unabated, CAJ noted that there is higher awareness among people for a concerted effort to educate people to fight fake news.

"Creating informed and media-literate societies is the most effective long-term approach to deal with fake news," read the CAJ statement.

The group said that with their resources and expertise, "mainstream media cannot deny the responsibility of leading the charge against fake news."

The group, however, stressed the need for the media to gain public trust by strengthening professionalism through objective and factual reporting. "The most effective weapon against fake news is facts," read its statement.

The forum was part of activities under the CAJ's action plan adopted at its general assembly in Bangkok early this year.

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The CAJ is one of the oldest and most active media organizations in Southeast Asia. It was established in 1975 to forge cooperation among ASEAN journalists.

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