Petru Macovei: Most of fake news are disseminated through social networking sites

The phenomenon of fakes news was gradually transposed to another space and most of the fake news are now disseminated through social networking sites and the people whose critical thinking is not sufficiently developed distribute them, contaminating a large number of people. The solution is to institute punishments, including criminal ones, for the intentional distribution of fake news, Petru Macovei, executive director of the Association of Independent Press (API), said in IPNs’ public debate “About old and new faults of electoral process 2020 inveigled by the press and old and new faults of the press, unveiled by electoral process”.

“In Romania, the Penal Code stipulates punishments for the intentional distribution of fake news, which are imposed if the intention is proved. In a fragile democracy, like in the Republic of Moldova, the introduction of such a provision could lead to settling of old scores and closure of media institutions that are inconvenient for the power. In a healthy society, such things are punished. For example, in the Baltic States there are legal provisions that are applied. Namely due to this, the Baltic States are not so contaminated,” stated Petru Macovei.

According to him, in a healthy country, not yet in the case of Moldova, journalistic self-regulation works. Petru Macovei gave the example of Latvia where things work because there is a law proving that the journalist should undertake to respect deontology. There is also the Press Council that, unlike the similar institution of the Republic of Moldova, can impose penalties. “There are many countries in the world where the self-regulatory mechanisms, the ethics commissions, really work. It is very important that media owners also take part in the self-regulatory mechanisms. Ideally, these should be businessmen who run a media business, not politicians who want to manipulate public opinion through the agency of the media. In normal societies, the businessmen with media businesses are interested in ensuring credibility so that the public trust their newspaper, portal or TV channel,” explained the expert.

Petru Macovei also spoke about the hidden advertisements of candidates disseminated online. “On the portals we monitor, there are many hidden advertisements that are articles promoting particular candidates in elections. They are included in news, political divisions and are not marked as publicity, representing classical ads. This is a big problem in the current campaign,” he stated.

According to him, the role of the press in electoral campaigns is to inform the citizens about the candidates and their electoral programs so that the voters could make a conscious choice.

The debate “About old and new faults of electoral process 2020 inveigled by the press and old and new faults of the press, unveiled by electoral process” was the sixth installment of the electoral series “We and the President: who elects who, who represents who” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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