Journalists to play vital role in combatting fake news

PETALING JAYA (Bernama) – Journalists are set to play a bigger role in the fight against fake news as authorities ramp up outreach efforts to combat the growing menace, a former editor-in-chief of international news agency, Agence France Presse (AFP) said.

Eric Wishart said journalists have the ability to do fact check with relevant authorities and reliable sources to reveal the truth.

“It is impossible to stop people from spreading fake news, but the only strategy to fight it is through media literacy, that is the bullet,” he told Bernama during a Hari Raya Open House organised by The Language House yesterday.

Wishart, the first vice president of Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCCHK), said as such, anti-fake news laws are not necessary for a country to control the spread of fake news as most countries already have existing legislation over hate speeches.

“It is too subjective to criminalise people under the (anti-fake news) law because it acts as a weapon for certain politicians to attack good journalists that they don’t like,” he said.

He said issues relating to elections, natural disasters, conflict, medical and food, as well as religious hatred easily become the elements of fake news that influence people, especially through social media.

Wishart noted that AFP has taken measures by forging partnerships in fighting the disinformation including developing verification tools and fact-checking.

“For example, AFP has a partnership with Hong Kong University Journalism School in developing its ethics code of Editorial Standards and Best Practices in Chinese to promote media literacy and outreach in education.

“In fact, we also have support from several social media platforms such as the ‘Facebook Journalism Project’, ‘Google News Initiative’, ‘Luminate’ and ‘WhatsApp’ to identify fake news,” he said.