Ministry orders registration of social media news platforms in Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Authorities have told the administrators of social media news platforms to register their accounts or pages, or they could face legal action.

The warning comes after many unregistered digital news platforms have circulated fake news and disinformation on social media, which seriously misinformed people and on several occasions caused public panic.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism last week issued an announcement requiring administrators to register their accounts with the ministry’s Media Department.

Individuals who have a personal account which they use to post items about their activities are not required to register, Director General of the Mass Media Department Mr Pinpratthana Phanthamaly said.

But anyone who sets up an account as a news platform that provides information for distribution to members of the public must register.

“Any party creating a news platform on social media must register. If they fail to do so, we will partner with the relevant sectors on the next step to regulate the issue in accordance with the law,” Mr Pinpratthana said.

To form a media organisation, a party needs to fulfill five criteria, he added, citing Article 39 of the amended Media Law which was passed in 2016.

The criteria include defining the media organisation, media type, ideology, objectives, organisational structure, office, and necessary vehicles and equipment. 

According to the announcement, some organisations, entities and individuals have set up news platforms on social media, including Facebook, without permission from the authorities.

Although these news platforms have circulated accurate and useful information, they have also published fake news, news that distorted the truth, and disinformation, which misled public opinion.

The latest case in point which alerted authorities in charge to the need to regulate the issue occurred recently when a fake news report claimed that the National Assembly’s 7th ordinary session had approved the reshuffle of several high-level positions in the government cabinet.   

Mr Pinpratthana warned that publishing and spreading fake news, photos, and videos violated the relevant laws, including the Law on Cybercrime Prevention. Those found to be in violation of the law are subject to legal action.

Causing loss or damage through social media is a cybercrime, according to Article 8 of the Law on Cybercrime Prevention.

Persons causing loss or damage through social media can receive a prison sentence of between three months to three years and fined 4 million to 20 million kip, according to Article 62 of the law.

Several news platforms have been created and their content published on social media, including ABC Laos News and Tholakhong, according to the announcement.

Any party wanting to legally establish or publish news on a social media platform or webpage using  Lao content must register their establishment and publication with the Mass Media Department or a provincial-level Information, Culture and Tourism Department, the announcement said.

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