Prevent Disinformation to Promote Credible Journalism: Study
KATHMANDU: Media Action Nepal (MAN) has carried out a study to examine whether Nepalese media outlets follow the standards of credible journalism in order to prevent disinformation and misinformation. The study recommends that the media, which has the responsibility of informing the citizens by disseminating accurate and realistic information, should minimize misleading and fake stories.
The study titled “Disinformation in Media: A Study of Newspapers and Online News Portals” presents an in-depth interpretation and analysis of the fake news and disinformation published by 11 daily newspapers and 10 online news-portals of Panchthar, Jhapa, Ilam, Chitwan and Nawalpur districts. The study also draws recommendations for editors and reporters in minimizing fake news to make them accountable towards the content they disseminate.
The study was carried out covering 11,627 reading materials including news stories, articles, opinions, editorials, photos and advertisements of one month period published in newspapers and a total of 1,000 news stories disseminated by the online news-portals during the months of September, October and November, 2019. All these reading materials are analyzed as per the standards of preventing fake news and disinformation set within this study. The standards include source (use of anonymous source, source not mentioned and fictitious source), misinformation, misleading headlines, disinformation (false context, false connection, fabricated content, misleading content, satire or parody, imposter content and manipulated content), jeopardizing social diversity (hate speech, blasphemy, religious intolerance, gender based discrimination, caste based discrimination, disability unfriendly content), obscenity, defamatory content and content against privacy.
The report divided into five chapters discusses the context of the study with methods and objectives, ethical standards of journalism, standards of preventing fake news, interpretation and analysis of the data and recommendations to editors and reporters in promoting accountable and credible journalism. The study is prepared as part of the training initiative by the U.S. Embassy in Nepal ‘to help journalists fight disinformation and misinformation and be more responsible in reporting’.
The study finds that newspapers and online news portals published/disseminated fake and misleading information of various forms and nature. In total, misinformation, misleading headlines and materials relating to disinformation were found at 3.13, 38.13, and 44.38 percent, respectively. The tendency to write news without mentioning source is also alarming. During the study, 10.63 percent of the news materials were found not to be citing sources.
The media outlets are found to be publishing stories that spread hatred about certain religious, ethnic or cultural communities; condemn religious-cultural beliefs and intensify gender-discrimination. 3.75% news content found to be of the above mentioned categories.
The study states that such news content can have serious impact on human life on the one hand, and on the other hand the credibility of the whole journalism is likely to be at peril. It shows that the Nepali media is intentionally or unintentionally disseminating fake news and disinformation. Online news portals are more likely to publish such news and content than daily newspapers.
It is recommended that editors and correspondents make them aware of the standards of journalists’ code of conduct, media laws, and standards of preventing disinformation; and apply them into day-to-day journalistic activities.
The study serves as a baseline on the state of disinformation in Nepal and will be helpful for working and aspiring journalists, media students, media researchers and academics.