Velez: True or false information

HARRY ROQUE, former defender of media people attacked by the powers-that-be and has turned now to the defender of the powers-that-be in Malacañang, said we should not fight fake news. We should rather let it flow in the "free marketplace of ideas" and let people decide.

The question: is spotting fake news easy like checking in the market if the fish is fresh and not recycled? Is it comparable to checking the Nike, North Face or Levi's you like at the surplus is an imitation?

Maybe apparel and fish is easy to check because you can see it. But news? Journalists can "smell" news, but the public sees news as a bunch of words and sentences and constructs of information. But can they spot the fake?

Let's take a challenge about how much we know if a news is fact or fake.

Mayon is in Albay: Fact. Mayon is erupting: Fact. Mocha Uson said Mayon is in Naga: We are erupting over her booboo.

Duterte is the president: Fact.

Duterte is the best president: Oops, this goes to the realm of opinion. And we don't judge if a president is good until his/ her term ends.

Let's move to a challenging level. What's Duterte's position on issues?

On public jeepney drivers, as mayor, he supports transport strikes, saying he's one with them fighting the oil-price hike as anti-poor.

As president: Mahirap kayo? Mamatay kayo!

On Joma Sison and the communists, the president said in 2016 he'll invite Joma home.

Early January 2018: Let's meet for a one-on-one talk.

Later in January: Let's meet and I'll slap you.

It's a challenge for journalists and public alike to know what is the president's stand on issues. And if he says he's joking about the 42 virgins as tourist attraction, you just wonder whether this is a government that knows what it wants to say.

There's a problem with Roque's claim that we have a "marketplace of ideas". That theory comes from America, home of "free speech" but also home of capitalism. The theory is debatable in the real world, with how information can be controlled and spinned to suit the powers that be, and how people can join the "herd mentality" jumping on popular opinion without verifying or checking the truth in such news.

The Ethical Journalism Network points out that we live in crisis times that the public sometimes tune out from fact-based communication and "turn to voices that echo their concerns and fears."

The Network points out lessons for journalists and advocates to learn to confront an audience like this.

But I guess Roque needs to learn his lesson too, the media rights advocate that he still claims himself to be. That the way to find the truth is to confront those who control and twist news: the communications department or the DDS-bloggers, who spew divisive voices and distract us from the real problems in our country.

For in the end, news helps us takes side. Which side are you on?

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