Bill penalizing writers of “fake news” pending in Congress

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Bagong Henerasyon Party List Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said that the spread of “fake news” in media must now end, otherwise, “we will end up as a society of people with a headful of lies created by insidious people and organization.”

She said in an interview with PNA during the South Luzon Media Summit on Fake News and Responsible Reporting that “fake news” would bring the society and people a headful of lies, and deceit.

The lawmaker who heads the public information committee in the House of Representatives said that two legislative measures are pending in both houses of Congress that would tackle regulations and penalties confronting the issues on fake news circulating in both mainstream and social media.

The proposed bill filed by Senator Joel Villanueva that is still pending in the Senate seeks to penalize people who publish, distribute and circulates fake news or information, Dy said.

The bill refers to fake news as information that would damage the safety and welfare of the public and is likely to cause panic, chaos, violence or intends to exhibit propaganda that discredits reputations.

The Villanueva bill would penalize those found guilty with a fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 and imprisonment from one year to 5 years.

The same bill would penalize media outlets. Social media companies that create, neglect or refuse to remove the fake news within a reasonable time would be fined from Php10 million to Php20 million and face imprisonment of 10 to 20 years.

The House bill filed by Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte is focused on the “out of context” news. This refers to misquotations, false and inaccurate reports including the editing audio and video bites which could result in the distortion of facts and contents.

The Villafuerte proposed bill penalizes four acts: the creation of fake news; dissemination; adding and abetting in the creation of fake news and the failure or refusal to retract or remove the fake news and issue an erratum.
The penalty of the Villafuerte bill for posting, sharing of fake and inaccurate report for mass media outlets would be fine of Php1 million for the first offense, Php2 million and suspension of the outlet or corporation for a week; Php5 million fine and suspension for a month.

Both proposed bills are subject to deliberation and debate and once passed in their respective chambers, the bills would be submitted to the Bicameral committee for further scrutiny, Dy said.

The BH party list solon, at the summit appealed to the media for support for the passage of the two Anti-Fake News bills still pending in Congress.

“We need you there when we conduct the hearing, we need to consult you to know your stand,” Dy said.

“I am appealing to the media to be responsible in reporting and writing news — that’s how we influence people, we have the power of the pen because you can change the way people think and that is your responsibility as journalist,” she  said.

She believes that fake news is no longer a laughing matter as it is now created, developed and believed as legitimate news.

Meanwhile, at the open forum, media representatives in Bicol expressed doubts on the real intentions of the proposed bill pending in both houses of Congress.

The media participants showed mixed reactions whether those bills were really intended to correct and improve journalists’ way of gathering and presenting the news or aimed to trample the freedom of the press and expression.

Others expressed concern that the measure would only serve the interest of politicians, government officials and people who are empowered.

Joey Garalde, columnist of Weekly Digest, a tabloid in Albay, said “journalists always have to do their job right to counter fake news. Maintaining the highest standards of journalism in delivering the news would help the public discern which is real or fake.”

He said the bill presumably has good intentions. However, legislators should tread lightly so as not to circumvent the Freedom of Expression and of the Press.

This is precisely why the media sector should be allowed to participate or contribute in the fine-tuning the bill, Garalde said.

The lawmakers should also look into issues of commercialization and political biases particularly of prominent media institutions in the country, he concluded. – Mar Arguelles/PNA 

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