Cebu Citizens-Press Council

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Define fake news, measures vs. Net ghosts: CCPC

October 6th, 2017 · No Comments

RESOLUTION STATING POSITION OF CEBU CITIZENS-PRESS COUNCIL (CCPC) ON SENATE BILL 1492 CRIMINALIZING FAKE NEWS

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IN SUM, CCPC ASKS CONGRESS:

1. For an explicit definition of “fake news” as it tells only what fake news can do and not what it is. 

2. To expressly require proof of actual malice when the news or feature involves a public person or figure.

3. To clarify liability of those who repeat, circulate or comment on false news.

4. To put up safeguards against the use of the law to harass or oppress, especially working journalists in regular and online
media, in which lapses in journalism might be seen as fake news.

5. For an effective mechanism to identify writers in social media so that they can also be held accountable for any violation of law.

FINALLY, TO DEFER THE PROPOSAL UNTIL DEFECTS OF THE BILL ARE CORRECTED.

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CONSIDERING…

[1] Senate Bill #1492 filed by Sen. Joel Villanueva last June 21, 2017 seeks to “penalize malicious distribution of false news and other related violations” and the bill is now being discussed in committee hearings;

[2] The bill espouses the intent to combat fake news that breaks out every now and then, spreading misinformation and falsehood;

[3] Mainstream media has a large stake in the issue of fake news, having its own credibility to protect and truth to seek in the work of reporting and commenting on the news;

[4] The Cebu media community wishes to speak out on the proposed legislation, particularly CCPC’s doubts about how the bill will affect working journalists and their public and the media group’s efforts to help curb incidents of fake news.

NOW THEREFORE CCPC HEREBY SUBMITS ITS POSITION TO THE HONORABLE SENATE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INFORMATION AND MASS MEDIA:

[1] EXPLICIT DEFINITION OF FAKE NEWS. The term “false news” is not explicitly defined in the bill. Instead, it focuses on what “false news” does or tends to do, not on what it is or what it constitutes. The bill says it is unlawful if the news “causes or tends to cause panic, division, chaos, violence or hate.”

Confusion over the term is likely to arise because of the current meaning of false or fake news. Meaning has been distorted to apply to almost any error or lapse of media reporting.

What distinguishes false or fake news from news that is merely the result of lapse or oversight in reporting and editing? It is a reality of day-to-day journalism, in the newsroom and industry-wide, that traditional media in the heat of deadline is prone to mistakes, despite layers of review and editing. But those errors are generally corrected promptly and safeguards set up against a repetition of mistakes. Are journalism mistakes fake news under the proposed bill?

How can false or fake news be outlawed without impinging on free speech and free press?

[2] LIABILITY OF ‘REPEAT’ USERS. The bill must clarify the liability of those who pass on, repeat, or comment on fake news.

[3] MEASURE AGAINST INTERNET GHOSTS. The bill offers no means how the law can be enforced against writers and bloggers who hide their identity in the internet jungle and vanish after they are caught peddling false or fake news. It has happened a number of times already in Cebu where the offending website just folded its tent and went into hiding. There’s no ready technology for promptly identifying culprits and preventing their flight.

What will happen is that under this bill, aggrieved parties will direct their return fire to traditional media, whose addresses are fixed and their journalists are identified and will hold themselves accountable.

[4] MALICE, ABUSE. While malice as an element of the crime is specified by the bill, it cannot dissuade the use of the law to harass media critical of public officials. It’s more menacing than libel in the matter of penalty, with its fine of up to P5 million and jail term of up to five years. And on evidence, it’s easier to convict under the proposed law than in libel, where courts tend to put premium on the value of free speech and free press.

Proof of actual malice must be expressly required, particularly when the aggrieved person is a public person or figure. That and other safeguards against the bill being used to harass and persecute those who dissent, especially working journalists, are earnestly sought.

THE CEBU CITIZENS-PRESS COUNCIL (CCPC), in this document circulated among en banc members, on the fourth day of October, 2017, hereby resolves to ask Congress that it address:

[1] THE CONCERNS RAISED HEREIN by the Cebu media, and elsewhere by other stakeholders, on the ambiguity in the definition of fake news and the apparent difficulty in prosecuting would-be violators in the internet;

[2] INCLUDE SAFEGUARDS IN THE LAW OR ITS IMPLEMENTING RULES SO THAT THE LAW MAY NOT BE USED TO HARASS JOURNALISTS whose stories may be found offensive by some readers or news sources;

[3] OTHER MEASURES THAT MAY BE EXPLORED IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FAKE NEWS, such as promoting media literacy, tighter prohibition on government media from being used to peddle fake news, and overhauling the so-called “bomb joke law” to make it an effective deterrent against bogus information.

UNLESS THE DEFECTS OF SENATE BILL #1492 ARE CORRECTED, CCCPC strongly urges that the bill be set aside for a longer and more thorough review.

APPROVED this fifth day of October, Cebu City, Philippines.
Certified correct:

PACHICO A. SEARES
Executive Director

Oct. 6, 2017

Tags: Announcements · CCPC Papers and Resolutions