The dominant force in local and international dialogue is the mainstream media. We rely on them to keep us informed regarding events and issues that may affect our lives and the course of action we take.
They have a monopoly on the access to first-hand information and the opinion of the public. They are conferred this respect because of their responsibility and the danger that comes with it. But what happens when mainstream media decides to go rogue? Since President Duterte assumed office, the mainstream media seems to have lost its way and reneged from its calling.
A. Slant or slander
The sharp-witted and foul-mouthed, new leader of the Republic of the Philippines has caused a media frenzy by leading and speaking from the heart. The assumption of the media’s audience is that they will be given reports that reflect the events as they unfolded in front of the media practitioner. This is no longer the case in the Philippines. Mainstream media have cut out contextual statements and deliberately twist words to sensationalize their reports. One reporter said that Duterte threatened SC Chief Justice Sereno with martial. Just recently, another claimed that he insulted the US president with an invective. Most readers would not go through the trouble of nor have the ability to counter check these news articles. But if we look and verify whether any of these pronouncements were the message Duterte was trying to make, we will find that they are not true. Words were taken out of context and disinformation ensued. This is a failure of one of the first tenets of the Broadcast Code of the Philippines.
B. News Accuracy: Lead or lie
At the height of the election fever, Senator Trillanes made an exposé about Mayor Duterte’s alleged millions in BPI Julia Vargas. The trouble with this is that not only was there never an amount close to what Trillanes said in the bank’s records but this was hearsay from an unverifiable and unknown source named Joseph de Mesa. The mainstream news outlets and their journos lapped up this double hearsay and third-hand information. And then they followed their media faux pas with pictures of properties they alleged were Duterte’s but which actually weren’t.
Next, the widely lauded and deeply flawed Inquirer “Kill List” which according to its editor “is an attempt to document the names and other particulars of the casualties in the Duterte administration’s war on crime” is not only misleading but an outright bloated list of lies. It was initially a list of the killings of people in the drug trade but has, since its initial posting, been updated to cover any crime that can be blamed on Duterte. This list even contains deaths committed by unknown hitmen as well as names of living people. This article was picked up by CNN correspondent, Euan McKirdy, who called it “one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes.” I mean how accurate is this list and the articles written by these two journalists.
They are seen to be frequently using erratum and update on their online news reports these days. There seems to be no more time to fact check and verify information before vilifying anyone most especially President Duterte.
C. Headlines: wordsmith or witchcraft
In the world of journalism, nothing wields more power to capture the imagination and the senses quite like a headline. Traditionally, it is a sharp and well-forged summary of an article. Sub-editors must be wordsmiths who create interest in the information within a piece. As of late, the Philippine mainstream media have turned the fires of their literary foundry into witchcraft. They brew illusions and lies that ensnare the mind of hapless readers. The adjudication of the UK’s Press Complaints Commission “described the misleading headline as ‘sloppy journalism’.”(sic) Instances of sloppy journalism have now become the norm instead of the exception. Days ago a mainstream online media claims to have witnessed a killing of a drug suspect. This they eventually updated after receiving an overwhelming amount of criticisms about the deliberate deception they attempted to pass for news.
The problem for these mainstream media magicians is that the public’s level of engagement in protecting their votes for President Duterte is now armed with discernment, intellect, voraciousness and vulgarity. They will no longer stand in the side lines as their country and the embodiment of their hopes are attacked by self-serving, anti-Duterte propagandists. They will talk up or down to you. They are ready to take the talk anywhere you want. They will be quick, sharp and decisive. And every time anyone claims that a Duterte apologist is vicious, they are equally ready to inundate you with counter arguments and counter evidence of your rabidity. They are fighting for their president and their country. So their heart and passion is right. Clearly.