Today's Punto
Today's Punto
As accurate as possible

Jun 01, 2017

WE ACKNOWLEDGE Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella’s admonition for the media to accurately report on what is happening, not just in Marawi City but throughout the country, in a highly fluid situation where developments unfold at breakneck and, admittedly, often confusing speed.

Which is why we exhort our colleagues to exercise extreme care in ensuring that unfolding events are reported to our audiences as accurate as possible; and, in the event we commit mistakes in the heat of the moment, to immediately acknowledge and correct these, something that did last week.

But we do find it disingenuous of Mr. Abella to address his appeal solely to – presumably private – media and not include the government’s own news outfits and, especially, the default “official sources” in the civil and security establishments who have often been at loggerheads, making often contradictory pronouncement and, worst, deliberately spreading wrong or totally false information even before the start of the emergency that prompted the declaration of martial law over Mindanao.

Do we even need to remind Mr. Abella of the Philippine News Agency’s seemingly deliberate attempt to manipulate the truth through its fake news stories? While it has yet to apologize for, or even acknowledge, the story on the supposed declaration by United Nations Member States that extrajudicial killings do not exist in the country, PNA has yet again tried to mislead the public by using a photo of an American soldier in Vietnam to depict “urban warfare” in Marawi.

And do we need to remind the secretary of President Rodrigo Duterte himself reporting the beheading of a police officer who turned up very much alive a couple of days later?

Which is why we find it utterly despicable of Mr. Abella and AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla to warn of fake news and threaten censorship or even arrests—to do so is nothing but a bald threat against the freedom of the press and of free expression.

No, sirs, you have no call to tell us what or what not, when or when not, to report, especially not if the very government and institutions you serve, which we are obliged to treat as official sources, cannot even ensure the accuracy of the information you provide.

Instead, we urge -- no, in fact we demand -- that you tighten your acts and provide our people with information that is accurate verifiable instead of “such items that can be easily misinterpreted or sensationalized.”

Nor will we be cowed into silence by such threats. We will not abandon our duty to serve our people’s right to know. Indeed, we urge our colleagues to ask the hard questions of those who purport to lead us, for it is in times like this, when our liberties are most at risk, that we should demand of them the answers on which the future of our people and our nation depend.

(Statement of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on Sec. Abella’s ‘fake news’ remarks/May 30, 2017)

Ryan Rosauro
NUJP Hotline No. 09175155991

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