Purifying Contaminated Information from the Fake News

Purifying Contaminated Information from the Fake News

By: Mohammad Nasir *)   At least one decade ago, when social media are growing and bringing some fake news, Indonesian press are facing the serious problem of the contamination of information environment. Such as the contaminated water, it needs to be purified, it needs lots of costs for purifying it when we want to

By: Mohammad Nasir *)

 

At least one decade ago, when social media are growing and bringing some fake news, Indonesian press are facing the serious problem of the contamination of information environment. Such as the contaminated water, it needs to be purified, it needs lots of costs for purifying it when we want to use it for drinking. For treatment we should identify where the contamination come from, what’s kind of pollutant, and finally we should select what’s treatment will we do?  For doing that, we must have knowledge and good strategy for purifying the contaminated water. What about the contaminated information?

The contaminated information will be dangerous for being consumed. It will mislead people, delude everyone who use it, and jeopardize the media which spread it, because people would not trust the media: printed media, electronic media, or online media. This is the reason why many mainstream media keep up the quality of their news, they must work hard to get pure of information, not fake news, not misleading news, not disinformation, and not misinformation.

Purifying the information to be real information is not easy to do, because it is the big project that cannot be finished for one month. It takes several years for doing it. It is a big job, and need to do seriously and continuously. We have known that journalism has been surrounded by fake news, disinformation, and misinformation (false or inaccurate information).  The cacophony of disinformation in social media often leak to the press media, and as soon as will drown the real information, and the media itself. So now, let’s fight against the roots of fake news.

Where should we start fighting the fake news? Do we want to fight it from inside or outside factors? From inside of the news media organization, we have to identify and check the capability, professionalism in many skills of journalism. A bad interview, sloppy verification, and unskilled journalist in surveying, will allow fake news and polluting information come into the news room.

The news fake in this context, conflate misinformation and disinformation. Without awareness of journalism competence, news room will be easy to be penetrated by malicious actors who spread fake news. The malicious actors who intent to disrupt the information become disorder, here then we call it as outside factor. They arrange communication strategy to create the disorder information for their special interests, not for public interest.

In the article Thinking About “Information Disorder”: Formats of Misinformation, Disinformation, and Mal-Information, in the book of Journalism, “Fake News”& Disinformation (published in 2018 by United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Paris),  Claire Wardle and Hossein Derachsan wrote: “…misinformation is information that is false, but the person who is disseminating it believes that is true. Disinformation is information that is false and the person who is disseminating it knows it is false. It is deliberate, intentional lie, and points to people being actively disinformed by malicious actors”.  According to them, misinformation, included false connection (headlines, visual or caption do not support the content), and misleading content. While disinformation, included false context, imposter content, manipulated, and fabricated content.

Do we want to fight directly the source of fake news as the outside factors, or we want to fight from inside by strengthen capacity, competence, and awareness to avoid the fake news, including disinformation, and misinformation? Which strategy do we want to choose?

Indonesia Chose Press Education

Indonesia has chosen both of those strategies, but much more doing press educations and giving some tests of journalist competence (Uji Kompetensi Wartawan/UKW) to see how are journalist competence at the moment. Tests have been given according to their level: young journalists (1- 3 years experiences), middle (madya/editor) journalist, and prime journalists (executive editors and editor in chief). With the education programs and the test of journalist competence, we hope the capacity, capability of journalist skills will increase, and they will reject all kinds of fake news: misinformation and disinformation. The quality of information as press productions will be increasingly better and better, and the people trust to the press media increase too, due to media could purify information.

In Indonesia, the fighting against fake news have being commanded by Press Council (Dewan Pers) and is followed by all of its constituents, and some mainstreams media such as Kompas Daily and the groups, Media Indonesia Group, Tempo, Jawa Pos Group, Rakyat MerdekaPikiran RakyatThe Jakarta PostDetikcom, and others. And also educational sector: universities, and Dr Soetomo Press Institute (Lembaga Pers Dr Soetomo/LPDS) always involve in the media literation program.

Every institution and media organization are fighting fake news by themself or working together. For instance, LPDS always works together with some media or press organization to hold journalist education/workshop program, and journalist competency test, to see how competence journalists at the moment. The same programs have been held by press or media organization as Press Council constituents i.e:   Indonesian Journalists’ Association (Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia/PWI), Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), Indonesian Cyber Media Union (Serikat Media Siber Indonesia/SMSI), Ikatan Jurnalis Televisi Indonesia (IJTI), Serikat Penerbit Pers (SPS), Persatuan Radio Siaran Swasta Nasional Indonesia (PRSSNI), Asosiasi Televisi Lokal Indonesia (ATVLI), Asosiasi Televisi Swasta Indonesia (ATVSI), Pewarta Foto Indonesia (PFI), and Asosiasi Media Siber Indonesia (AMSI).

All press organizations that’s organized by Press Council have learnt and identified journalist skills that need to be improved, which areas are still weak to avoid fake news, disinformation and misinformation. For creating professional journalists, Press Council then had made all aspects of journalist skills to be the curriculum of press education and being materials of test journalist competence.

Then the curriculum is adopted and applied by all Press Council constituents for journalist education, through media literacy, workshops, and seminars in many regions and provinces all over Indonesia. In certain times, journalists must join the test of journalist competence, according to their level. The journalists who pass the test would be given a certificate of competence. And who fails in test is hoped to study again, and will be allowed to register their name in the next test at another times.

What’s really journalist competency? When they are young or beginner journalists, firstly they must be able to plan and propose the coverage, and bring it to editorial meeting with editors. They report to the editor about coverage planning, talking about the importance of news coverage that they want to do, who will be interviewed, how many questions, what’s kind of visuals that must be prepared, photos, statistic, infographic, and maps. They must listen and note what are editors’ suggestion in the meeting. Certainly, some editors’ suggestions improve the journalist planning with aim the result of the coverage will be better. The first step like this, coverage planning which is brought to editorial meeting, and discussed together, and they will know it when there is fake news.

Secondly, joining press conference agenda with certain topic. The assessor evaluate them in getting the news (press conference), how do they ask questions. After press conference finished, they must write the news with the material from press conference about 100 words (straight news). The assessor will evaluate their writing, completing the elements of the news (5W+1H), checking news structure, fact, and avoiding opinion. The assessor of the test will check the language that they used, how do they use capital letter, and punctuation marks such as commas, full stop (dot), and others.

That’s impossible professional journalist does not understand in using the punctuation marks. After their writing have been corrected, the test participant must rewrite or edit their own writing, and assessor will evaluate how far they have skill and understanding of the news writing.

Thirdly, assessor will also assess how do they interview. The assessor asks them to choose a partner for role play in an interview. The process of interview will be evaluated whether they are professional or not. The interview skill is very important, because it is a process of getting information. When the process is wrong, the information that journalist get will be misinformation.

Misinformation is part of fake news that is not intended. Beside one on one role play interview, they must show in practicing door stop interview. How do they stop someone in front of the door to interview, blocking the way, or giving the way for interviewee? Introducing their name and mention identity or not. All must be done professionally.

The fourthly, how to develop networking. Every Journalist should show and hand in at least 20 people who are very often to be interviewed as news sources. Journalists must show news sources’ phone numbers, and mention position in their offices. In front of an assessor, a participant of test is ordered to call one of the person’s name in the list of networking, and opened the microphone of telephone, in order to assessor hears the conversation between journalist and news source. Beside assessor want to know how many people and how wide networking journalists have developed, assessor wants to evaluate how do they communicate with news sources. The competence journalist will have long list of people in networking. They can be contacted any times.

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And the fifthly, every professional journalist must understand and apply the press law and ethical journalism in everyday moment when doing journalistic works. Indonesian Press Council and press communities have a Press Law No: 40 of 1999, and the Journalistic Code of Ethics as the regulation of the Press Council No: 03/SK-DP/III/2006, and Guideline of Cyber Media as Press Council Regulation No: 1/Peraturan-DP/III/2012. All of them must be obeyed by journalists, because they have good aim to avoid fake news (disinformation and misinformation).

Those points are materials of test for journalist at all levels. It will be little different from the material test for madya (editor) journalists that they join the test for editor competence. Editor class must have all skills that young journalists have. But they also have skill to lead the editorial meeting, giving direction and guidance to make good coverage, editing, and always obey the rules, not violating the press law and ethical journalism.

And for prime (utama) journalist class (editor executives and editor in chief), journalist must have all skills that the young journalist and editor have. They must have good insight, they always warn about the important of journalistic code of ethics, press laws, and regulation from Press Council. They must have good planning for publication, and good direction and guidance for the editors and young journalists. They also think about quality information. Certainly, they must know how to avoid fake news, disinformation and misinformation.  To be professional journalists in prime level, they have to follow the journalist competency test. If they do not pass, they will not be given competence certificate. As an editor in chief, a journalist must has a competence certificate or card from the Press Council.  This is the way to fight the fake news.

So that, all contents in the Press Law and Press Council Regulation must be understood and obeyed by all Indonesian journalists.  All of them have been used for journalist competency test materials. They will pass, if they have grade at least 70 (pass). If they got grade under 70, they fail in the test, and they are stated as not competence yet.

“Journalist competency is a journalist capability for understanding, mastering, and keeping up journalist profession, or journalism, and the authority in decision making in the journalistic area. In this case about awareness, knowledge, and skill,” wrote in Pedoman Uji Kompetensi Wartawan (Guideline of Journalist Competency Test) by Dr. Soetomo Press Institute (2019).

The Important Articles of Indonesian Press Law

In the Indonesian Press Law No. 40 of 1999 contains many articles that relate our effort in countermeasure to the fake news.  I selected some articles that are very close to fake news countermeasure. In article 1 (11), it was said, person or group of people have right to give the answer, protest the news product of media that contain defamation. Article 1 (12), said correcting the disinformation and misinformation are spread by press media is the right of every people, and at article 1 (13), media must publish the correction of the wrong information, data, fact, opinion, and picture that spread by the media itself.

In the article 6 (c and e), press develop public opinion based on true information, and press must struggle for justice and truth. This is clear that journalist must avoid the fake news. And the article 12, said that press company must announce publicly the name, address, person in charge, included editorial in chief, and the name of printing and the address (for printed media).

And the article 17 (1), the public may do activity that developing press freedom and have right to get needed information. People activity that have been mention, is for watching and monitoring and reporting the law violation and wrong technical press reporting by press media. The activity including to give suggestion to the Press Council, said in article 17 (2, a, and b).

Article 15 (2: a, and c), Indonesian Press Council protects press freedom from interference of outside of the press. Press Council also establishes the journalistic code of ethics and controls press media in applying it.

Journalistic Code of Ethics

The journalistic code of ethics as a regulation of Indonesian Press Council No. 03 of 2006 must be applied by every journalist in working as journalists. This code of ethics had set to prevent all journalists to do wrong in getting information, writing the news, paying attention to human right, and public interest. I chose some articles most related to avoid the fake news. In this regulation contains 11 articles. All journalists must read and apply it.

Article 1 said, Indonesian journalist must be independent, writing accurately, balance, and not having bad intention. And they have to do professional way in doing journalistic task (article 2). The one thing that very important and corelate with avoiding fake news is in article 3, it was said that journalists always verify the information, report with balance, not mixing fact and opinion in judging, and applying the basis of presumption of innocence.

An article 4 also straightly fighting the fake news: journalists may not write fake news, slander, sadistic, and obscene. And article 10, said, Indonesian journalists must pull out the news soon when they know their news are wrong, write them again in true version, and apologize to the readers, or to the audiences.

Guidelines for Cyber Media

In practicing actually there is no big different between cyber media, and printed media, television, or radio. There are few different in technical production and news gathering between them because of different technology, and product distribution. But all journalists at various platform must obey the same rules: Press Law and Journalistic Code of Ethics that I mentioned above. In the cyber media, verification of information is must although the uploading the news is in every moment.

If the journalist has not enough time verify the information, the media must inform the reader that the news need to be verified. This explanation must be put at the end of the news, in the bracket with italic letters. After journalist has enough times, journalist must continue verify the news that was promised. After that, verified news must be placed on the page and linking with unverified news that has been published before. In the Guideline for Cyber Media as an Indonesian Press Council No 1/Peraturan-DP/III/2012, also said, cyber media may not publish the fake news, obscene, and violating the journalistic code of ethics, and the press law.

The Conclusion

The world is facing fake news, and it will drown the real information, and the news media. The public trust will leave the media, if the world fail to countermeasure against fake news. Every country has its own way. United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) have helped many countries with giving some workshops how to countermeasure the fake news, and how to purify information that contaminated information environment.

Indonesia has the way how to fight the fake news. Indonesian Press Council with its constituents, and press organization up to now are trying hard for strengthening education for journalists. Press companies, and the press institute, such as Dr. Soetomo Press Institute also have been doing the same countermeasure to the fake news. The press law, journalistic code of ethics, and some regulation, included the test of journalist competence have been made by Indonesian Press Council. All Press Council have done the education programs and tested journalists for measuring the real competence.

For instance, Indonesian Journalists’ Association (PWI) has done the program of the test of journalists competence in many regions and provinces, since 2011. Until July 2020, PWI have done the test of journalist competence 464 times, with the result 12.128 competence journalists (pass) in the test. Few of them fail, and they must study again.

So we hope we win to attack fake news, and purifying the contaminated information from inside through press education.

 

This article was presented at the World Journalists Conference (WJC) 2020, in Seoul, Korea on Monday, 14- 16 September.

 

*) Mohammad Nasir

He was borne in 1958 at Lamongan, Indonesia.

  • Vice Chairman of Adinegoro Multimedia Education Foundation – Dr Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS).
  • Head of Education and Training at Indonesian Cyber Media Union (Serikat Media Siber Indonesia/ SMSI).
  • Assessor of journalist competency test at PWI.
  • Journalist of Kompas, morning daily (1989-2018)
  • Director of Welfare and Public Services at Indonesian Journalists’ Association (Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia/ PWI).
  • Senior Editor of indonesiatoday.co

 

(indonesiatoday.co)

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