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Saturday, September 22, 2012
PROFESSIONAL news people would have to be more active online so they could introduce the discipline of fact-checking and other basic journalism rules as a standard in social media.
Ramon Isberto, Smart Communications Inc. public affairs head, gave this suggestion in his talk during the Cebu Citizens-Press Council meeting Thursday as part of the Cebu Press Freedom Week celebration.
Almost all of the 30 million Filipinos who are online are in social media, Facebook in particular. The trend of going social through Facebook and Twitter is expected to continue as the number of Filipinos who can access social media from their mobile phones grows. There is a need to set a standard for what can be shared online and how to be responsible in social media.
“Professional news people will really have to carve out a role and perhaps play a role model kind of role in this chaotic market place. But that means you have to play also the online space. You can’t provide a leadership role if you’re outside of it,” Isberto said.
Basic journalism rules like verification, checking facts from one or more sources and the protocol on ferreting out the truth before publishing may well be applied in the online sphere.
Isberto said, “In social media, it’s a very opinionated world. Everybody’s a columnist. There is no pressure for people to cross check or to fact-check. As long as you can say your piece in a nice and interesting way, that’s fine. Like a social conversation, except it is broadcast literally all over the world. I’m hoping that the professional will somehow migrate some of its values to the other side. If more and more young people understand that you can’t just say anything…I think that is going to help.”
Legislation would not be necessary to regulate social conversation. President Benigno Aquino III approved last Sept. 12 Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
One of the “cybercrimes” listed was online libel defined as--“‘The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”
While the law made no mention of the penalty for online libel, it has a catch-call provision (Section 6) that makes the use of online communications an aggravating circumstance and imposes a penalty of one degree higher than what is stated in the Revised Penal Code.
This provision and the one that empowers the Department of Justice to block access to computer data like websites and blogs without going to court have become the bases for media people and Internet advocates in opposing the new law. Legal experts have announced plans to challenge the law in court.
The law could have been a reaction to the online criticism targeting several government officials, including legislators. But educating people on the proper use of social media, not the law, was needed. And journalists could play a role in setting the standard.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 23, 2012.