A range of governments in Asia have introduced or have announced their intention to enact legislation to cover fake news. Traditionally “fake news” or one-sided propaganda have been generated by authoritarian governments who controlled local media and later introduced a variety of legislation to mitigate the flow of alternative information from websites and social media. The introduction of fake news bills targeting individual actors and alternative news portals is an evolution in the slew of legislation authoritarian regimes have been passing over the years against alternative content generated by online communications.
In Southeast Asia, Malaysia in April 2018 was the first country to pass a fake news bill. Two months, later when the country experienced a change in government, it announced a review of the said law. Other countries in Southeast Asia such as Duterte’s Philippines have also announced intentions to introduce fake news legislation and so has Cambodia. Meanwhile Singapore had a public consultation over a proposed fake news bill that resulted in negative publicity for the government over its aggressive cross-examining of several individuals who presented their submissions. In South Asia, India hastily withdrew legislation that would see journalists deemed to be spreading fake news lose their media accreditation. In Bangladesh the discussion has been around fake news fanning communal violence as the country prepares for polls later in 2018. Discussion around fake news bill have taken place across Asia in the run up to elections where sitting regimes argue that ‘fake news’ has the power to sway voters in during the campaign period as well as fan communal violence.
This argument has emerged following hotly debated voting results in other jurisdictions, notably following t 2016 US elections and the 2016 Brexit vote in the UK. Starting with the Malaysian elections in May 2018, understanding the relationship between fake news and elections that will be held over the next two years in Cambodia (2018), Bangladesh (2018), Thailand (possibly February 2019) and India (May-June 2019) and Indonesia general election (April 2019) therefore will be crucial. Overall early analysis shows that democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression are the likely victims of these fake news bills.
This conference will examine the phenomenon of fake news and its use and abuse by governments, private entities and social media, the role of the citizen in the consumption of such ‘news’, the responsibility of media outlets and the emerging legislation around it and its impact on human rights.