Empowerment through Law of the Common People (ELCOP) hosted an international seminar entitled Fake News: A Threat to Human Rights & Democracy on Today, 31 January 2023 at Six Seasons Hotel in Dhaka.
The first session of the seminar held on Fake News: A Threat to Democracy where senior journalist Mr. Saleem Samad presented a paper entitled Fake News: A Threat to Democracy in SAARC and BRICS Countries. He pointed out in his presentation that collective efforts of South Asian and BRICS are apparently absent except for canned rhetoric by regional leaders. His paper recommended more emphasis on social and educational strategies to combat fake news. In the later part of the session, Mr. Arefin Mizan, research consultant at ELCOP, presented a paper entitled Fake News: A Threat to Democracy in Bangladesh. He discussed how fake news is a threat to democracy in Bangladesh, by decreasing confidence in democratic processes and institutions, citing recent cases and data. The paper concluded with a call to Bangladeshis to teach others about fake news and its dangers, with the slogan “Each 1, teach 10.” Professor Dr. Abul Barakat from Bangladesh, Dr. Arghya Sengupta and Mr. Pulokesh Ghosh from India participated as designated discussants of the session. The discussants emphasized on the grey areas of combating fake news. Dr. Barakat said that the focus should be on identifying what are the determinant of d fake news or the determinants of demand of fake news. He stated that addressing fake news is challenging In his opinion, formal legal measures, corporate commitments, and civil society actions are needed to combat fake news. Dr. Arghya commented that since fake news is spreading though the platforms of big tech companies, the tech giants have the responsibility to prevent fake news.
The second session held on Fake News: A Threat to Human Rights where Mr. Aroup Raton Shaha, research consultant at ELCOP, presented a paper entitled Fake News: A Threat to Human Rights in SAARC and BRICS Countries. In the paper, Mr. Shaha depicted different international incidents of fake news that has affected human rights in different parts of the world. In the later part of the second session Md Johir Uddin Shohag, research consultant at ELCOP, presented a paper styled Fake News: A Threat to Human Rights in Bangladesh. He pointed out that the rise of the influence of tech companies and populism helps fake news spread faster and consequently, people might get agitated and might act irrationally and attack minorities in response to, for example, fabricated Facebook posts defaming the religion of the majority by any member of such minorities. The paper illustrated the disastrous impact of fake news on human rights in Bangladesh. Mr. Johir ended his presentation by calling for international cooperation to combat fake news. Professor Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed from Bangladesh, Professor Dr. Yubaraj Sangroula from Nepal, Jayanta Roy Chowdhury from India, Dr. Lopamudra Maitra Bajpai from India, and Mr. Vasily Pushkov from Russia spoke as designated discussants of the session. Dr. Yubaraj, former Attorney General for Nepal said that the accountability and effective functionality of democratic institutions is essential to prevent fake news.
Scholars, journalists, diplomats, civil society representatives, bureaucrats, NGO and INGO officials, UN officials, and human rights activists participated in the open discussion session.
With the pledge to combat fake news, the day-long event concluded at 5:00 p.m.