UNESCO Cambodia and the Ministry of Information on Thursday released a handbook on journalism education and training entitled Fake News and Disinformation to help strengthen and enhance the professional capacity of journalists and journalism students in Cambodia.
The book, which was unveiled at a ceremony, aims to encourage journalists to verify their facts and ensure accuracy before publishing articles on public media platforms.
It is almost 200 pages and contains seven key lessons to provide journalists with a deep understanding of the profession.
UNESCO Cambodia and the ministry said one of a journalist’s most important roles is to prevent the spread of fake news and disinformation which is causing chaos in Cambodia and around the world.
Its country representative to Cambodia Sardar Umar Alam said at the ceremony that the progress of the internet has led to significant changes in media management policies.
Digital technology has facilitated the access to and use of large amounts of data for the media, Alam said.
Meanwhile, Alam said social media has been spreading fake news and disinformation, which has had effects on society.
“Through this handbook for journalism education and training, I believe that journalists and journalism students in Cambodia will gain additional knowledge.
“It will assist them in fact-checking and finding reliable information to write an article that is true and in line with the principles of freedom of expression,” he said.
Alam said that launching the Khmer-language handbook is part of UNESCO’s plan to address the spread of fake news, build trust in the media and enhance the credibility of the journalism profession.
The first secretary of the Embassy of Sweden to Cambodia Magnus Saemundsson attended the ceremony and said 15 years ago, only about one per cent of people in Cambodia had the internet or knew how to use it.
But the evolution of digital technology has led to rapid changes in the number of internet users in the Kingdom.
The latest data obtained from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications shows that as of the middle of this year, 56 per cent of people in Cambodia use the internet and have a high rate of information literacy.
He said some social media users have spread rumours causing social chaos which led to warnings from the authorities.
Recently, a false Covid-19 infection was reported in a Cambodian community on a social media network. The Ministry of Health rejected the claim and required the immediate removal of the rumour.
“Freedom of expression is a principle of democracy, but the publishing of information [in media] and information [published] on social networks without fact-checks will also cause chaos in a democratic society,” Saemundsson said.
He said in order to avoid spreading rumours and fake news, journalists need to fact-check information they receive before publishing it.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said the spreading of fake news can affect the nation’s security.
He said the solution will require participation from everyone to provide and disseminate correct information. Through this handbook, he said journalists will receive additional guidance on the right to freedom of expression in terms of publishing stories.