Mainstream media have been spreading fake news about Mindanao for decades

Mainstream media have been spreading fake news about Mindanao for decades

- in Opinion

You want to talk about fake news? Let’s talk fake news.

Did you know that Manila-based media (who like to call themselves “national media”) have long been spreading fake news about Mindanao?

We in Mindanao have long had to contend with the ignorant, offensive, and — yes — fake labels the Manila-based media have used to describe our island. “War-torn,” “conflict-ridden,” and “lawless” are just a few words thrown around. How many times have you read and heard the words “war in Mindanao” in the media — as if the entire island were in a state of war?

This is not to mention the liberal use of religious affiliation or ethnicity when referring to undesirable elements: Muslim terrorist, Maranao robber, Tausug kidnapper.

This sets up the readers and viewers, most of whom have no idea what the real situation is in Mindanao, to conclude that the island is unsafe, and that the danger comes only from certain sectors of the multicultural society living here.

This anti-Mindanao reporting makes as much sense as saying that the entire Metro Manila is a den of thieves just because someone got robbed in Caloocan City. It is unfair to brand an entire region in a particular way just because something happened in a tiny corner of it.

This has been a longstanding problem with Manila media outlets, and there is no assurance they will ever change. Why do they do this? Maybe they’re just lazy: it is simply easier to lump all the areas of conflict and violence and label them “Mindanao” than to take the effort to identify exactly where these incidents are happening. Maybe it’s for the business reasons: it is easier to sell newspapers and draw TV and radio audiences when the stories are about war, not peace. War sells, and war in Mindanao can be a treasure trove if one tells the story in a way that highlights conflict.

Whatever the reason, Manila media have a lot of rewriting to do if they are to be true to their vow of presenting only the truth to their readers, viewers, and listeners. It is their responsibility to get their stories right, not just in terms of the facts of specific incidents, but of the overall picture in Mindanao. A careless adjective can paint a very negative picture, forever scaring off prospective visitors and investors.

Fake news? You bet.

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