By Paulo Loreto Lim
During a seminar on media literacy at the L’Fisher Hotel yesterday, Philippine Press Institute (PPI) Executive Director Ariel Sebelleno, who spoke on detecting fake news, questioned the proposed fake news bill, filed by Senator Joel Villanueva earlier this year.
“Have we become so stupid that fake news has to be stopped [by law]?” he asked.
Amid his talk, Sebelleno discussed the role of the media and those who disseminate information and their responsibility to determine what is “fake news” and ensuring the consuming public is not misled.
“Our obligation is the truth,” stated the PPI official.
He also suggested to those gathered, which included members of the media, students, and public information officers, to review the text of the bill, calling the proposal “tricky.”
According to Senate Bill 1492, beyond pointing out “any person who maliciously offers, publishes, distributes, circulates, and spread fake news,” it also holds liable “any mass media enterprise or social media platform that fails, neglects, or refuses to remove false news or information.”
If passed, individuals could face a jail sentence between one to five years and fines up to P5 million; whereas organizations could be assessed fines up to P20 million, with individual violators subject to jail time up to 20 years or, if within a corporation, incarceration of the president or chief executive officer.
Sebelleno also referred to these provisions as “scary.”
He offered a few tips for determining fake news, including checking the source, seeing if a specific story has been covered widely, review spelling and grammar, among other items.
Sebelleno also said the act of reading should be embraced in order to nurture critical reading, noting many today rely on Google and are not in the practice of critical reading.
After earlier in his speech suggesting “social media makes people lazy,” he implored, “We have to bring back the culture of readership.”
The seminar was organized by the Negros Press Club, in partnership with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines. ABS-CBN reporter Alvin Elchico was also on hand to discuss ethics in broadcast news./WDJ