LAST FRIDAY, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines publicized an open letter to the Philippine News Agency, the news service of the government of the Republic of the Philippines under the care of the Presidential Communications Operations Office headed by Sec. Martin M. Andanar.

    This concerned the obvious “creative interpretation” — read: twisting – of the facts obtaining from the recent Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland of the country’s human rights record.

    The letter reads:

    WE ARE writing about the posting of at least two almost identical news items that were posted on the Philippine News Agency site on May 15 ( articles/987860) and May 20 (http://www.pna. about DILG Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing’s claim on the supposed position of 95 of the 105 countries that participated in the recent Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Please treat this letter as both an inquiry as well as a protest into the use of what we have always considered a legitimate news agency to “legitimize” the blatant manipulation of the truth, a charge that, ironically, has repeatedly been leveled at other media outfits by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, his spokespersons and other government officials, thus fueling anger among administration supporters that has led to the harassment and threatening of journalists.

    While we do not question your editorial prerogatives and do understand that you face certain limitations as a government-run news service, we do wonder how Mr. Densing’s comments, which apparently run counter to all other accounts of the positions the participantcountries to the UPR actually registered, could have been reported so uncritically.

    Worse, these were reported not once but twice, with slight rewriting in the second version, as witness below, in an apparent (to our mind) attempt at slightly shifting the focus from that of the first article, which was so obviously – we are sorry but there is no other term applicable – fake from the get-go:

    95 nations in 3rd UPR
    convinced no EJKs in PHL

    MANILA, May 15 — Ninety-five out of 105 countries that attended the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland were convinced that extra judicial killings (EJK) is non-existent in the Philippines.

    DILG Assistant Sec. Epimaco Densing, in a press conference on Monday, said the Philippines received congratulatory messages as they noted that this is the first time they heard that the fi gures reaching them were “spoiled and rotten information.”

    PHL’s human rights situation
    commended at UPR

    MANILA, May 20 — A total of 95 of the 109 attendees of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held in Geneva, Switzerland early this month commended the Philippines for its improved human rights situation.

    Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing said majority or 87 percent of the participants praised the Philippines after the team presented the human rights-based development programs of the government and the measures adopted to fulfll its obligations to the eight international treaties ratifi ed in the past years.

    We do understand the need for PNA and other state-affiliated outfits to project as strongly as possible the government’s side on current issues and controversies. But does this include peddling falsehoods?

    That what Densing professes to be the truth is clearly not is evident even with a cursory reading through the Universal Periodic Review’s official Database of Recommendations.

    It has not helped that the first PNA story has already been picked up and exploited by fake news sites, which peddle Densing’s canard to counter the international concern over the current human rights situation in the country and to further smear mainstream media outfits that have reported accurately on the REAL

    Our concern over the use of PNA to legitimize fake news also stems from the possible implications this poses on the professional reputations and yes, the safety of our many upright colleagues who work for the venerable news agency and continue, despite the challenges they face, to keep it reputable and worthy of people’s trust.

    As a media organization and as citizens of this Republic, we demand and expect an answer from a news agency funded by our taxes and which we, therefore, technically own.

    Looking forward to your response, we thank you very much.

    National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

    Joe Pavia

    SO, WHAT would have Joe Pavia said?

    Asked me ABS-CBN News’ Jojo Pasion Malig in a tag on the NUJP letter.

    Joe Pavia was the most respected long-time general manager of the PNA and no-nonsense editor of a number of publications from the preto the post-martial law eras, as well as chair of the Philippines Press Institute.

    To say that Joe Pavia is a pillar of Philippine journalism is an understatement.

    I’ve been so privileged to have come under his tutelage while still in college as stringer of PNA-Pampanga Bureau. And honored at having been invited by him, along with my former PNA immediate boss Fred Roxas and friend Peping Raymundo, to be a co-founder of SunStar-Clark in 1995 that latr morphed to SunStar-Pampanga.

    So what would have Joe Pavia said?

    Melasac ne sa ing editorial desk qng dugdug na; mengaclac no ngan qng gulisac na (The editorial desk would have been shattered by the slam of his fists; everybody there would have had blasted eardrums with his scream).

    The mantra every journalist fortunate enough to have been mentored by Joe Pavia is “Accuracy. Accuracy. Accuracy.” Be it in a news story on in an headline.

    No, he would never settle for simple factchecking. It had to be checked, rechecked, cross-referenced with all possible sources for a final check.

    And then, Joe Pavia had this never-thetwain- shall-meet rule with news vis-à-vis opinion writing. At SunStar-Clark, he expressly enjoined me to lay off news stories as I was already writing a column and the editorials. Precisely, as news is bound by facts, and columns/editorials stand on opinions.

    Yes, with this fictive turn at the PNA, Joe Pavia could only be turning and tossing in his grave.


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