No need for anti-fake news laws, says veteran newsman

Eric Wishart says anti-fake news laws often act as a weapon for certain politicians to attack good journalists they don’t like.

PETALING JAYA: Anti-fake news laws are unnecessary for a country to control the spread of fake news as most countries already have existing legislation over hate speeches, a veteran newsman said.

“It is too subjective to criminalise people under the (anti-fake news) law because it acts as a weapon for certain politicians to attack good journalists that they don’t like,” Eric Wishart, former editor-in-chief of the international news agency, Agence France Presse (AFP), said.

He said journalists themselves can play a bigger role in the fight against fake news as authorities ramp up outreach efforts to combat the growing menace.

Wishart said journalists have the ability to do fact check with the relevant authorities and reliable sources to reveal the truth.

“It is impossible to stop people from spreading fake news.

“The only strategy to fight it is through media literacy — that is the bullet,” he told Bernama during a Hari Raya open house organised by The Language House here today.

Wishart is the first vice-president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

He said issues relating to elections, natural disasters, conflicts, medical and food shortages, as well as religious hatred could easily become the elements of fake news that can influence people, especially when disseminated through social media.

Wishart said AFP had taken measures by forging partnerships in fighting the disinformation, including developing verification tools and fact-checking.

“For example, AFP has a partnership with Hong Kong University Journalism School in developing its ethics code of Editorial Standards and Best Practices in Chinese to promote media literacy and outreach in education.

“We also have support from several social media platforms such as the ‘Facebook Journalism Project’, ‘Google News Initiative’, ‘Luminate’ and WhatsApp to identify fake news,” he said.