TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Newspaper Week has started. This year's slogan is: "With newspapers, you can tell fake news and find facts."
Fake news surfaced as a problem during last year's US presidential election.
During the campaign, unsourced information that Mrs Hillary Clinton had sold weapons to an Islamic extremist group circulated. It has been noted that the incident partly affected the outcome of the race, in which Mr Donald Trump was elected president. This is an extremely alarming phenomenon.
The people, with whom sovereign power resides, make decisions based on correct information. That is a basic premise of democracy. Special caution is required against the spread of malicious information driven by political motives.
This is an age where everyone can send information. In many cases, fake news is disseminated through Facebook and other social networking services.
In Japan, too, untrue information and false rumours about a nuclear accident and other incidents spread through the internet following the Great East Japan and Kumamoto earthquakes.
According to an opinion survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun, 81 per cent of respondents believe false information widely circulates through the internet and other media. It is safe to say that fair and accurate news reports are more strongly desired than ever before.
It is essential for newspapers to publish only facts based on meticulous reporting, while also appropriately analysing the current situation. We intend to take this role expected of newspapers to heart.
Amid growing tensions arising from the North Korea situation, transmitting irresponsible information even carries the risk of plunging society into turmoil.
The Yomiuri has continued to run detailed reports on a succession of missile launches and nuclear tests by the North, using many charts and other data to depict North Korea's present technological capabilities. This is intended to report the realities of the North's threat as objectively as possible.
At the same time, the Yomiuri extensively interviews domestic and overseas experts and government officials, thereby explaining North Korea's motives and future prospects from various points of view. Providing material conducive to calm judgement of situations that does not needlessly stir anxiety - we will continue to produce newspapers in such a manner.
Efforts to guard against false information in the ongoing House of Representatives election cannot be neglected. Voters must not be misled by malicious slanders against particular camps while their authenticity is unknown. This is also true with speeches made by party officials and candidates.
The lower house race follows last year's House of Councillors election as a national poll in which 18- and 19-year-olds will cast ballots. The contentious issues to be debated in the election cover a wide range of matters, including national security and a planned consumption tax increase.
The latest survey results also point to a tendency in which a higher percentage of young people obtain news through the internet than other age groups.
By unfolding a newspaper, one can look through the assertions of major parties and candidates. The internet generation is encouraged to know of this advantage of newspapers.