Journalism under fire amid fake news – Unesco
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Across the world, journalism is under fire amid the proliferation of “fake news” and social media-driven echo chambers, a new report of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said.

The report, titled World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, cited the rise of fake news stories that shroud the truth and muddy information, as well as social media algorithms that are contributing to the creation of virtual “echo chambers” and exacerbating political polarization. 

It mentioned governments that have shut down the internet, notably before elections, and that “journalists are under attack, facing rising violence.”

“The stakes are even higher for citizens, women and men who rely on professional journalism to navigate the development and transformation of their societies,” UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said.

According to the UN cultural agency’s flagship analysis of new trends in media freedom, pluralism, independence and safety of journalists, the media industry – which remains the primary source of news and information in the digital age – faces both vast opportunities and steep challenges.

“Covering the period 2012 to 2017, this study not only maps emerging global trends. It makes an unequivocal call to action to counter new and persistent challenges,” Bokova said.

“This provides a unique reference point for member-states, intergovernmental organizations, civil society groups, academe, journalists and media professionals, and all those who wish to understand the fundamentals of press freedom in a changing world,” she added.

The report highlighted positive developments such as civil society mobilizing for greater access to information, media houses cooperating with fact-checking services to push back disinformation and more governments adopting freedom of information laws.

In the digital age, the report said, women journalists are able to develop an online presence liberated from newsroom hierarchies, and citizen journalists and activists have access to modes of mass communication that were previously unthinkable.

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