The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is not immune to the emerging challenges brought by fake news and disinformation as it is not just a regional problem but have become a global issue.
In 2017, during the ASEAN Chairmanship of the Philippines, efforts to address fake news and misinformation have figured significantly in all ASEAN’s activities.
In the same year, the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) convened a Roundtable Discussion on Fake News and Communicating the Right Information and have since adopted the Framework and Joint Declaration to Minimize the Harmful Effects of Fake News.
Through various strategies, the ASEAN Member States (AMS) have agreed to continue to educate the public with digital literacy to prevent the misused of the internet speed and the infiltration of information technology as a tool to spread a hoax, disinformation, and fake news.
Guideline in Managing Government Information
Recognizing the need to collectively address the proliferation of fake news and disinformation, the Republic of Indonesia, through the Ministry of Communications and Informatics, has initiated the two-day Workshop on Developing the Guideline on Management of Government Information in Combating Fake News and Disinformation in the Media held in Jakarta, on 2-3 March 2023.
The workshop, attended by the representatives from the ASEAN Member States (AMS), aims to provide guidance on how to effectively manage government information to combat the spread of fake news and disinformation in the media.
It is a project of the Sub-Committee of Information (SCI) of the ASEAN’s Committee on Culture and Information (COCI) which aims to provide a framework for government information officers in collaboration with media organizations, journalists, and other stakeholders in developing strategies for identifying and countering false information, and implementing systems for monitoring and responding to disinformation.
The guideline was also crafted to promote accurate and reliable information by establishing standards and best practices for government information officers.
“It also provides guidance on how to verify sources, how to distinguish between fact and opinion, how to avoid sensationalism and how to report controversial issues in a balanced and fair manner,” said Ichwan Nasution, an official from the Indonesia Ministry of Communications and Informatics (Kominfo).
Nasution said that fake news and disinformation related to the government is the most serious problem, adding that fighting fake news and misinformation on the mass media requires good management and general guidelines.
By adhering to the guideline, the Indonesian official said government information officers can demonstrate their commitment to ethical and responsible communication, which can help to maintain the trust of the public.
Nasution added that once adopted, the guideline ensures that government communicators are transparent and accountable and that the public is assured to have access to reliable and trustworthy information which can help to help maintain the credibility and reputation of government agencies.
What’s in the guideline?
The guideline on the Management of Government Information in Combating Fake News and Disinformation in the Media clearly defines fake news and disinformation based on formal policy regulation, UNESCO reference and agreement among internal regulators.
The guideline contains the various impacts of fake news and disinformation from government and community perspective and its effects to government policymaking such as weaken government institutions, public fear, conflict and extreme cases of violence.
It also elaborates approaches in combating fake news and disinformation in the media, types of regulations in combating fake news, key priorities, ways to detect fake news and disinformation and responses to combat fake news and disinformation.
The guideline also recognizes the need for a multi-sectoral approach involving not only the information sector but also those in the fields of telecommunications, transnational crime, law, youths and education in order to protect the citizens of the ASEAN region.
Common efforts among AMS against fake news
As part of the workshop, representatives of the ten ASEAN Member States shared their respective country initiatives in countering fake news and disinformation in the media.
Some member-countries, to include the Philippines, presented the various laws, policies and regulations on combating fake news and disinformation especially on social media platforms.
Other member-countries, emphasized the penalties that could be imposed for social media providers should they fail to notify users of their rights, responsibilities, and risks when storing, exchanging and sharing information on social media.
There were some member-countries that penalized social media service provides should they fail to prevent and remove false and prohibited information such as maps that do not fully represent or misrepresent national sovereignty.
The common initiatives and mechanisms which the AMS have been implemented in fighting fake news and disinformation in the media include the establishment of a fact-checking network, intensified inter-agency collaboration, strict law enforcement and increased regulation of social media.
Given the prevalence of social media, the AMS considered the following key priorities in combating fake news and disinformation: continuous digital literacy trainings, media and information literary promotion, strategic communications, application of international fact-checking networks code of principle, cross-functional collaboration, and inter-agency coordination.
The Director General of Public Information and Communication under Kominfo, Usman Kansong, who served as chair during the workshop, thanked all the delegates from the member states for their valuable inputs and sharing in fighting fake news and disinformation
Usman assured all the representatives of the ASEAN member states that their respective inputs will be incorporated into a finalized Guideline on Management of Government Information in Combating Fake News and Disinformation in the Media which will be presented and endorsed at the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting Responsible for Information (SOMRI) and AMRI meetings in June 2023.
The Indonesian official is optimistic that the very dynamic and positive engagements between and among the ASEAN member state representatives will help drive ambition for the Guideline on Management of Government Information in Combating Fake News and Disinformation in the Media to be impactful, practical and address the key opportunities and challenges for ASEAN.
Meanwhile, the country’s representatives to the two-day workshop were PIA Deputy Director-General Katherine Chloe S. De Castro and PIA Regional Head Angely L. Mercado. (ALM/PIA Region 2)