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Congress to pass law vs purveyors of fake news

By Mar S. Arguelles NAGA CITY --- Bagong Henerasyon Party List Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said on Friday that the spreading of “fake news” in media would make our society and people with a headful of lies and deceit. Dy said the publication and circulation of fake news must now end, otherwise “we will end up as a society of people with a headful of lies created by insidious people and organization.” Dy who heads the public information committee in the House of Congress told participants to the Bicol Media Summit on Fake News and Responsible Reporting that two legislative measures are pending in both houses of Congress. The measure would tackle regulations and penalties confronting the issues on fake news that is currently circulating in both mainstream and social media, Dy said. The proposed bill filed by Senator Joel Villanueva that is still pending in the Senate seeks to penalize people who publish, distribute and circulates, spread fake news or information, Dy said. The proposed bill refers the fake news as information that would damage the safety and welfare of the public and are 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 and social media companies that create, neglect or refuse to remove the fake news within a reasonable time where the offenders would be fined ranging from P10M to P20M and an imprisonment of 10 to 20 years. The 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 proposed Villafuerte bill penalizes four acts: the creation of fake news; dissemination; adding and abetting in the creation of fake news and the failure. Refusal to retract or remove the fake news and issue an erratum. Under the Villafuerte bill, posting and sharing of fake and inaccurate report in Mass Media outlets would be fined P1M for the first offense, P2M and suspension of the outlet or corporation for a week for second offense; P5M fine and suspension for a month for the third offense. Both bills will undergo deliberation and debate and once passed in their respective chambers, the bills will be submitted to the bicameral committee for further scrutiny, Dy said. Dy appealed to the media for support the passage of the two Anti-Fake news bills still pending. “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 reort 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,” Dy said. She believes that fake news is no longer a laughing matter as it they are now deliberately created and developed to appear as legitimate news, maliciously written by those with evil or selfish interests. At the open forum, however, some media practitioners from Bicol expressed doubts on the real intentions of the proposed bill pending in both houses of Congress. They expressed concern that the measure would only serve the interest of politicians, government officials and people with vested interests. Joey Garalde, columnist of Weekly Digest, a tabloid based 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 should help the public discern which is real or fake.” He said the bilsl presumably have good intentions. However, legislators should tread cautiously 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 added.

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