AMSI Holds Regional Election Fact-Checking in 20 Regions, Signs MoU with KPU and Bawaslu

AMSI Holds Regional Election Fact-Checking in 20 Regions, Signs MoU with KPU and Bawaslu

Jakarta, Indonesia will be holding its regional election (Pilkada) on December 9, 2020, where more than 100 million of its citizens who have the right to vote will cast their ballot for mayors, district heads and governors in 270 areas, including nine provinces, 224 districts, and 37 cities.

Reflecting on previous 2019 general elections, it can be expected that mis-disinformation will still be circulating during the event. Political events such as elections have always triggered a new wave of false information, spread most dominantly on social media.

In carrying out its role in media literacy and tackling the circulation of mis-disinformation during the election, the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI) is organizing Fact-Checking December 9, 2020. In total, 20 of AMSI chapters will collaborate and fact-check hoaxes during this election.

On Sunday, December 6, 2020, AMSI organized a webinar to kick off the Regional Election 2020 Fact Check initiative. The virtual discussion was attended by the Chairman of Indonesian General Election Commission (KPU RI) Arief Budiman, Chairman of AMSI Wenseslaus Manggut, Chairman of Indonesian General Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu RI) Abhan, and the Presidium of Indonesian Anti-Slander Society (Mafindo) Anita Wahid. More than 60 participants from the regional AMSI board, online media editors-in-chief, KPU, and Bawaslu officers from central to regional levels and the general public participated in the webinar. The discussion was also streamed live on AMSI’s YouTube channel

“Hoaxes appear during events that are [prone to be] exploited, including politics. The result is more people visits [online] media to confirm. That is why the media’s role as a public reference is critical in terms of Fact-Checking,” said AMSI Chairman Wenseslaus Manggut.

Citing the Communication and Information Technology Ministry’s negative content web trawler (AIS Kominfo) data on the 2019 Elections, Wenseslaus said hoaxes tend to escalate approaching election day. The number continued to increase three days after, with election administrators as the primary target. “Fact-Checking by AMSI and Mafindo network aims to ‘launder’ the ongoing mess. This is important because it showed that the press functioned as a ‘clearing house’ for the public,” said Wenseslaus Manggut during the discussion.

He emphasized that it is essential for the press to carry out its function as a “clearinghouse” in every significant event. “Public education during a period of political contestation is a major responsibility due to its great public interest. AMSI cannot work alone, and therefore, it needs to collaborate with many stakeholders so that hoaxes can be stopped from the source,” he said.

Therefore, AMSI signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Fact-Checking for the Governor and Deputy Governor Elections, District Head and Deputy District Head, and Mayor and Deputy Mayor Elections with the General Election Commission (KPU). This cooperation was signed on December 2, 2020, by Arief Budiman (Chairman of the Indonesian KPU) and Wenseslaus Manggut (Chairman of AMSI). This central-level cooperation will be followed up at the regional level. Currently, AMSI is finalizing a similar collaboration with the General Election Supervisory Agency.

Chairperson of the General Election Commission Arief Budiman said that online media’s role during general elections will continue to increase and will bring benefit for election organizers, participants, and voters. On the other hand, the spread of hoaxes is rising daily, not only targeting institutions but also personal domains. “KPU has reviewed that this [Fact-Checking] MoU is important. Today’s Kick Off is important and is expected to be disseminated to the public so that they may understand the mechanism of fact-checking,” he said.

Arief highlighted the fact that those who believe in hoaxes are not only ordinary people but also intellectuals. “Almost all stages of the election use information technology. KPU cannot work alone. So that the support from many parties is important to prevent, overcome, and find solutions. Hopefully, this MoU will benefit the KPU, AMSI, and the public,” he said during the event.

In the forum, Bawaslu Chairperson Abhan also presented examples of prohibited campaigns during general elections as stipulated by Article 69 of the Elections Law. Namely, questioning the basis of the state and the 1945 Constitution; insulting someone based on their ethnicity, religion, race, and class; incite/slander and pitting political parties against each other; employing violence or threats of violence or advocating the use of violence. “This supervision cannot be done alone and Bawaslu has collaborated with various parties,” he said.

Bawaslu encourages the public to report such violations on social media through the Agency’s official channels. “The growing role of online media, both big and small media, is important, we need the media to remain independent and balanced in conveying information to the public as well as a form of social control,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the same occasion, Anita Wahid expressed the need for digital social listening and community surveillance (Siskamling) against hoaxes during the Regional Elections. She also emphasizes the importance of detecting hoaxes that may not be as viral but have a high impact in influencing the public’s opinion. That is why, according to Anita, performing fact-checking, which includes conducting pre-debunking, collecting data on potential hoaxes, preparing clarifications, and collaborating in spreading those clarifications has to involve many parties, including journalists and media. “So that the impact of hoaxes does not last until after the elections,” added Anita.

Fact-checking for Pilkada 2020 will be held on 20 AMSI regions. In Kalimantan it will be organized by AMSI West Kalimantan, and AMSI East Kalimantan. Meanwhile in Sumatra it will be organized by AMSI North Sumatera, AMSI West Sumatera, AMSI South Sumatera, and AMSI Riau.

In Eastern Indonesia, it will be organized by AMSI North Sulawesi, AMSI Southeast Sulawesi, AMSI South Sulawesi, AMSI West Sulawesi, AMSI Gorontalo, AMSI Maluku-North Maluku, AMSI Bali, AMSI Papua, AMSI West Nusa Tenggara. And in Java, it will be organized by AMSI Jakarta, AMSI West Java, AMSI Central Java, East Java, and Yogyakarta.
This fact-checking program will also involve the network, an initiative of AMSI, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), and Mafindo, with the support from the Google News Initiative (GNI). Previously, AMSI has held a series of Pilkada 2020’s Fact-Checking initiative, which includes Fact-Checking Training in 20 AMSI regions reaching at least 386 journalists of AMSI media members and more than 20 participants from local stakeholders.

The 20 AMSI regions also held Fact-Checking Initiatives on 21 Regional Election Debates, involving fact-checkers from 127 AMSI media members and local experts, and resulting in published news reports that fact-checked the candidates’ claims during the election debate. Hopefully, the series of Fact-Checking initiatives during the campaign period, candidate debates, and the election day can suppress the spread of fake news that is harmful to election stakeholders and the public.*

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