A fake information regulation is not the respond to to misinformation

a close up of a newspaper: Hong Kong newspapers at a newspaper stand in Wan Chai. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hong Kong newspapers at a newspaper stand in Wan Chai. Picture: Sam Tsang

The image of Donald Trump thrusting a finger accusingly at the digital camera and uttering the terms “faux information” is just one of the abiding pictures of his presidency. It is one particular I would somewhat forget about.

His use of the “faux information” mantra to brush aside any media report he didn’t like, no make a difference how credible, has proved well-known with leaders around the entire world who want to discredit the do the job of troublesome journalists. This has assisted gas distrust of the media. That, of course, was their intention.

More worrying, however, has been the use of “fake news” as a justification for sweeping rules that suppress media experiences or stifle dissenting sights. These types of laws have been passed in other elements of Southeast Asia. Now, it appears to be, it is Hong Kong’s turn.

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Last week Main Govt Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor uncovered guidelines she wishes to see handed. Among them is legislation she mentioned is desired to deal with concerns arising from the city’s civil unrest in 2019, like “disseminating faux news.”

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Digital channels at that time were awash with misinformation and lies. Supporters of each political camps made use of these methods as they battled to handle the narrative. They doctored videos, made phony allegations and distribute wild rumours. But I would not dignify any of this with the term “news.’

The unfold of misinformation on social media is a world wide problem, regardless of whether it requires orchestrated tries to swing elections, condition-sanctioned cyberbullying of federal government critics, or bogus assistance on how to guard against Covid-19. Distinct procedures are being thought of and adopted.

The dilemma with “fake news” legal guidelines is the near certainty they will suppress the media or be utilized to focus on the opposition. Who decides what is pretend? This can be subjective. Some of the government’s individual statements would be regarded by its critics as “bogus news.”

This kind of rules can conveniently be applied to stifle studies the authorities does not approve of. They can become the lawful manifestation of Trump’s pointed finger.

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Some governments in the region have either passed “faux information” legal guidelines or adapted aged ones for this function. Such an tactic is generally controversial. There are other, far better, strategies of tackling the trouble.

These include things like expanding public consciousness and enhancing information literacy. Much better use need to be made of actuality-examining solutions these kinds of as those established up by universities and media organisations. The federal government need to be doing the job constructively with social media providers and earning a lot more successful use of its possess channels to counter misinformation. All of these solutions are preferable to passing yet an additional law.

The media by now faces a authorized minefield. There have prolonged been demanding defamation regulations and contempt of court limitations. Previous colonial rules, these kinds of as “uttering seditious words and phrases” have not long ago resurfaced. And new privacy legislation is on the way.

The broad national stability legislation passed very last calendar year raises fresh fears for journalists, as does the new law enforcement definition of “media” and the emergence of lawful challenges over the use of govt databases. A fake news law would incorporate to the burdens by now facing the field.

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Lam’s administration seems to imagine that all the city’s challenges can be solved by passing laws and imposing penalties. Controversial rules are considerably a lot easier to put in put now there is no opposition in the legislature. But lawmaking is not the only – or essentially the finest – resolution.

Hong Kong demands a sturdy, impartial media. It is an asset that sets our metropolis aside from other areas in the location. Journalists have a duty to meet large skilled criteria. They are qualified to seek the truth, to be honest and well balanced, to substantiate facts and to put the information in context.

The media really should be part of the solution. Trustworthy resources of information are more vital than at any time, exactly for the reason that of all the misinformation accessible on the web. Alternatively than passing guidelines probably to curb the media’s means to do its task, the authorities must embrace and support the profession. Journalists are not, as Trump claimed “the enemy of the individuals.” They provide the individuals by striving to convey them the real truth.

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This short article at first appeared on the South China Early morning Publish (www.scmp.com), the leading information media reporting on China and Asia.

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