Opinion

Spreading Of Fake News Is A Criminal Offence

MIDA is calling on all media agen­cies to follow basic journalistic principles of balance and accuracy before using any information from social media and to work within the ambit of the law.
02 May 2019 16:49
Spreading Of Fake News Is A Criminal Offence
Ashwin Raj

Opinion:

MIDA is calling on all media agencies to follow basic journalistic princi­ples of balance and accuracy before using any information from social media and to work within the ambit of the law

In light of the recent debacle in rela­tion to the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) and the circulation of fake news amidst claims and counter claims be­tween the Water Authority of Fiji and trade union leaders, it is impor­tant for the mainstream media and the general public to understand that the circulation of false news or what is now commonly known as fake news intended to instill anxiety amongst the general public on the premise of false information is a se­rious offense under the law. I draw your attention to section 15(a) of the Public Order Act which states that:

Section 15

Any person who –

(a) Maliciously fabricates or know­ingly spreads abroad or publishes, whether by writing or by word of mouth or otherwise, any false news or false report tending to create or foster public alarm, public anxiety or disaffection or to result in the detriment of the public; shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to both such imprisonment and fine.

It is high­ly disconcerting that The Fiji Times, a mainstream media organisation, proceeded to publish sto­ries on a matter of national interest, stories that have the potential to cause national pan­ic and indeed can have the effect of sabo­taging the economy without ascertaining the veracity of claims in relation to the alleged termination of Water Authority of Fiji employees.

Similarly, a week prior to this another news media organisation, Fiji Televi­sion Limited, published a story in fact from the same fake news page on the social media in relation to the issue of bus fare increases.

This story too, and understandably so, led to panic amongst the public.

MIDA is calling on all media agen­cies to follow basic journalistic principles of balance and accuracy before using any information from social media and to work within the ambit of the law.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

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