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16 October: How to Tackle Fake News? Maintaining Truth and Trust in Media in the Digital Age - report

20 October 2018

On 16 October, in the margins of the 12thASEM Summit, the Asia-Europe Foundation, the EU-Asia Centre, EurActiv and the Press Club hosted a public forum titled How to Tackle ‘Fake News’: Maintaining Truth and Trust in Media in the Digital Age. The event attracted a diverse audience of mainly journalists active throughout Asia and Europe. 

The forum was moderated by Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Centre. The panelists were Ms Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck, Founder & Director of Lie Detectors; Mr Cod Satrusayang, Managing Editor of the Asia News Network; Aiden White, President of the Ethical Journalism Network; and Mr. Astik Sinha, Advisor to the Indian Parliament.

Disinformation has become increasingly prevalent in both Europe and Asia, and is progressively being employed as a means to a political end. The discussion focused on a number of issues that come with this increased prevalence: 

·      Does ‘fake news’ need to be legally regulated by the public sector, or is the media sufficiently equipped to self-regulate by diluting disinformation through high-quality publications, research and fact-checking? Is a degree of government interference justified, and if so, at which point does this interference constitute censorship? 

·      How do we ensure transparent journalism, to facilitate the identification of both high- and low-quality journalism? 

·      How do we strengthen public awareness about high- and low-quality news, and how can we strengthen media literacy? How do we ensure that the readership “pre-bunks” disinformation, rather than leaving it to the journalists to “debunk”?

The main takeaways:

·      Contrary to what many Europeans and Asian may perceive, Asia and Europe have much in common when it comes to the prevalence of disinformation. Even though in Europe, disinformation tends to be more closely associated to right-wing political and news organizations, in Asia disinformation is even more widespread, illustrated by the major employment of disinformation by the governments of i.e. Cambodia and Myanmar. Asia and Europe face similar challenges on which they can cooperate, including on the strengthening of media literacy. 

·      A range of initiatives in Europe, the US and Asia have come into existence aiming to build public trust in journalism by defining indicators for the certification of high-quality, trustworthy and ethical media, such as transparency rules, good governance and sources of financing. These initiatives are recognition of the acknowledgment by the journalism sector of the problems it faces related to disinformation and lack of public trust. They are also recognition of the media’s attempt to move forward on these issues. 

·      Journalists present at the forum disagreed about the extent to which government interference in the journalist realm is justified and legitimate. Some argued that absolute freedom of the press is journalism’s most valuable possession, and that we should continue to believe in the media’s ability to self-regulate and “debunk” disinformation by diluting it through high-quality coverage and research. Others argued that some government interference is justified, as we can and should not allow those actors with malign (political) intentions to abuse and ruin the journalist sector by undermining its credibility and business model. All agreed on the need for better education and training to be able to assess ‘fake news.’