Asean ministers met on the sidelines of the 14th Conference of Asean Ministers Responsible for Information yesterday in Singapore and agreed on a framework to combat the spread of fake news across Southeast Asia.
S. Iswaran, Singaporean Communications and Information Minister, said that most countries are facing the same problems dealing with fake news and must be able to keep up with the technologies used to spread fake news.
“As information becomes increasingly accessible on digital platforms due to advances in technology, misinformation becomes equally prevalent,” he said. “It is essential to ensure that the digital space remains one that is safe, reliable and conducive for everyone.”
Mr Iswaran said that the conference was held to build a strong Asean community through information and media while combatting fake news and promoting cooperation with partners, noting that cooperation is imperative when promoting positive online behaviour.
“As fellow members of Asean, we must work closely together to promote socially responsible online behaviour, as well as to minimise the harmful effects of online falsehoods,” Mr Iswaran said.
During a press conference, Asean ministers noted that tackling fake news is a growing global challenge. The ministers agreed that Asean member states must collaborate and exchange best practices in combatting fake news.
Asean ministers jointly endorsed the Framework and Joint Declaration to Minimise the Harmful Effect of Fake News, considered a catalyst to strengthen cooperation, share ideas and propose viable solutions to address the issue.
In Cambodia alone, there have been several cases of false news being spread across various internet platforms such as Facebook. Last month, unverified online reports stated that six people were shot dead during a land dispute in Kratie province.
Information Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng said that the public should be more careful and more vigilant when it comes to news consumption. He said that the public must access the news from registered media outlets.
“Fake news mostly appear on social media and people shouldn’t only read headlines,” he said. “Cheaters might use the headline to attract attention to fulfil their ambition.”
Mr Kimseng said that law enforcement officers will do their jobs if the dissemination of fake news continues to escalate.
Huy Vannak, founder of the Federation of Cambodian Journalists, said that a country like Cambodia could learn from Singapore, as Singapore has the mechanism to effectively combat fake news.
He added that Cambodians must be careful when reading or making fake news.
“I would like to advise people to not create fake news because they could face legal action,” he said. “Sources have to be verified because some news outlets use doctored pictures to attack political leaders.”