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Media urged to strengthen role as watchdog against fake news, propaganda — UN special rapporteur

A United Nations special rapporteur urged the media to cover the dissemination of fake news to help address the issue.

Professor David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, made the comment in a video message during the Regional Fake News Conference in Dusit Thani Manila on Friday.

"Journalists should cover fake news stories, because of their relevance. And they, and fact-checking organizations should address disinformation and propaganda, not only after the fact, but they should develop tools of debunking (fake news)," he said.

The forum was held by human rights advocacy group Centerlaw and the Advocates for Freedom of Expression Coalition-Southeast Asia (AFEC-SEA).

Kaye said that while fake news and propaganda has been a problem for generations, it has recently become a "serious public policy concern" and a "global issue."

"The problem has been with us for generations... What's new about the digital age is the speed, distance, seeming authenticity it can be achieved by spreading it," Kaye said.

"It is fast becoming a serious public policy concern," he added.

However, he said fake news can be mediated and addressed, but stakeholders must actively work together against this problem in order to address it.

The media, he said, has a critical role for it remains to be the watchdog of society.

"The media should support appropriate self-regulation, strive to achieve the highest standard of accuracy. They should also include coverage of the phenomena of dissemination (of fake news) and line with their watchdog role in society," Kaye said.

State actors, he said, should also avoid disseminating and spreading fake news, and instead promote accurate information about government, public health, and the environment, among others.

Private sectors, such as social media and search engine companies, also have a significant role in the fight against fake news, because it is both a technology and human problem.

He urged them to do all they can to promote free expression while clamping down on disinformation.

Kaye said "multistakeholderism" is the key to overcome the phenomena of fake news.

"All stakeholders should be involved in seeking solutions to disinformation and propaganda," he said.

"The challenges facing all of us concerning freedom of expression today are not insurmountable. They are daunting, it's true, but it can be medicated and addressed," he added. — BAP, GMA News