THE Philippines, as a democratic country, is bestowed with the privilege of press freedom. It is a society with a voice and has the right to be heard. The free press has the right to truth, justice and equality. However, this freedom was abused when fake news started to dominate the social media. It began to spread confusion and deception to the Filipinos and the rest of the world.
Fake news, as defined by Wikipedia, is a type of journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes. With the presence of modern technology today, spreading of these fake news is much easier, especially to the youth.
In a recent survey conducted by CS Media, 31 percent of the millennials said they shared a news story online and later learned that it was fake.
With the absence of persistence and diligence, some social media users would really find fake news believable at first sight. One of these is the Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre who’s been accused to have used fake news as basis for intelligence reports within his department.
Fake news has a lot of negative impacts. For one, it deliberately changes an individual’s view on a certain issue, or perhaps, it plants uncertainty in one’s mindset.
According to sociologist Mike Aballos, one of the main causes of these fake news is the bias of an individual — may it be political, social or logical.
In Aballos’ analysis, he stated that unlicensed social media writers tend to post their opinions on an issue and claim it as news. Without any discernment and doubts, these so-called online journalists publish their thoughts as facts. Which, sadly, undermine the country’s democracy and press freedom.
The gravity of the impact created by fake news became a major problem for government institutions in Mindanao. Moreover, this problem became a global phenomenon.
It gives the millennials a toxic way of thinking, it makes their social involvement complicated and it bends their principles and beliefs.
Marlene Reyes, a marketing officer and a mother to three teenagers, said fake news abuses the perks of communication. She pointed out that communication should be used for good purposes and not to spread fallacies that vitally affects a teenager’s cognizance.
In a recent national news on this issue, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) call for the public to refrain from spreading alternative facts, fake news, or false information. The CBCP also released a list of websites that carry fake and unverified content.
This also prompted the Philippine Senate to put into consideration the enforcement of penalties for entities that create and circulate false news either through print, broadcast or social media.
In fact, Senator Joel Villanueva filed Senate Bill 1492 or an “Act Penalizing the Malicious Distribution of False News and Other Related Violations” last June 21, 2017.
With the recognition of the negative influence of fake news, schools and other learning institutions play a crucial role in instilling due diligence, discernment and critical thinking to the minority. But more importantly, education and campaign against fake news must start in our homes.
In an interview with SunStar Davao writer Boom Castillo, she said the real role of a journalist is to publish factual and fair news to the public. They must also work hand-in-hand with both the government and the community as they are the connecting tool for both sectors which binds them together.
In attaining news stories, Castillo admits that it is not easy. She even said getting details on these stories became the day-to-day challenge for them as journalists.
Before writing the news article, journalists must personally converse with the spokesperson to accomplish specific details and to verify facts.
Castillo said the factuality of a news can be attested through the words and tone that are used by the writer. The readers must also determine that the article is objective in nature wherein the writer must use less usage of adjectives because these kinds of words depict bias.
She added the sources of a news story must be credible people and not just any staff of any agency. He or she should be knowledgeable on the subject being addressed.
Clearly, news writing is not as easy as typing directly on your laptop and clicking on “post” to publish a story. It is a work that requires a lot of verification on details and facts as to make it a reliable news story.
Today, there’s a lot of ongoing efforts on eliminating fake news. Proper and responsible journalism workshops and seminars are popular in Mindanao which are sponsored by different telecommunication companies and are conducted in universities.
Majority of the authorities and journalists today believe that credible news is still in control of the public knowledge. Regardless of its medium, the content of the news article is what the public has interest on. Most of the citizens also depend on credible and reliable sources.
In the age of technology and unverified journalists, we must still fight for factuality and fairness in news. We must not let it be overpowered by fake and biased news. Lies, deceit and fallacies shall not reign over our decisions especially when it is on public interest. (Cyntelle Joanne Saguan)
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on September 10, 2017.
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