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Anti-social media
By Elson T. Elizaga. Published July 7, 2017. Updated October 9, 2017. Updated January 29, 2020.

Veteran photojournalist Froilan Gallardo did something that no fake-news reporter in his right mind would do: Apologize.

Gallardo apologized, in Facebook, because he had made a mistake. Actually, the Philippine National Police did, and Gallardo reported it, but he was sorry anyway. Gallardo’s complete post on June 15, 2017: “PNP retracted earlier statement that they arrested the youngest sibling of the Maute Brothers in Macasandig this morning. They said they arrested a relative and one of the bombers of Maxandrea hotel years ago. My apologies.” (I’ve changed his “my” to “My”.)

I shared Gallardo’s statement in my Facebook and explained that his act is what makes him a real journalist. It is consistent with newspaper tradition.

Journalism is “literature in a hurry” and mistakes happen. To prevent readers from being misled by wrong information, editors would print a correction and an apology in a small note called “erratum”. This has to be done quickly. It has to appear the following day if the newspaper is daily, because it is dangerous for readers to make decisions based on errors.

Journalism is a tough discipline. It’s a four-year course. What journalists do is get and report facts, not just give information. Technical and ethical rules have to be followed. But some of us believe that text messaging and chat are the same as news reporting: The journalists are media. We have social media accounts. Therefore, we must be journalists.

Mocha Uson, who is Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations, has never apologized for spreading fake news. In fairness to her, she doesn’t claim to be a journalist. We know what she did with photos of Honduras and Brazil.1 So, I won’t belabor the point. But let me describe my experience with the Thinking Pinoy blog, which is being maintained by Rey Joseph Nieto.

Days before the election, Nieto who describes himself as a “Filipino citizen journalist” attacked presidential candidate Mar Roxas for allegedly claiming that he has a master’s degree at The Wharton School. The reference of Thinking Pinoy was Wikileaks.

But when I checked Wikileaks, I discovered that Roxas didn’t make the claim. It was US ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney, who mistakenly described Roxas as having “a Wharton MBA” in a 2008 confidential cable written by Kenney.

Kenney's claim that Roxas has Wharton MBA
Part of the cable of former US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney.

I sent an email to Wharton to double-check this MBA issue about Roxas because it was also being circulated online. I discovered that Roxas’ degree at Wharton is Bachelor of Science in Economics, major in Finance (1979). The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler also conducted the same inquiry and got the same reply from Wharton. Roxas has no MBA from Wharton and he never claims he has one.

So, I wrote to Thinking Pinoy, hoping the error would be corrected. But I didn’t receive a reply. No apologies were published. Then a few days later the webpage containing the allegation vanished. Its address is
http://www.thinkingpinoy.com/wharton-graduate-mar-roxas-truth-succeeding/ but its content has been replaced by a 404 error message.

Why do people like Uson, Nieto, and other distributors of false information, not acknowledge their mistakes? Only they can tell. But I have theories. They are probably not raised well by their mothers. Second, everything is so fluid in the internet. You print something, you can delete it, unless someone has pressed the PrintScreen. Third, who cares? End

Logo of National Union of Journalists of the Philippines


THE National Union of Journalists of the Philippines calls out Rey Joseph Nieto for attempting to resurrect his utterly discredited accusation against our colleague Jes Aznar during the hearing by the Senate committee on public information and mass media into fake news on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Early in his testimony, Nieto, a consultant of the Department of Foreign Affairs who is behind the “Thinking Pinoy” blog, cited his claim that Aznar had endangered government soldiers by posting online videos he took of the fighting in the early days of the Marawi crisis.

Worse, Nieto made it appear that what he did was a benign reminder to an errant journalist instead of the hate-filled and, worst of all, totally false rant that it was. And while he did mention that his followers had been “angered” by what Aznar supposedly did, he omitted the fact that his lies had unleashed a barrage of harassment and threats against the respected photojournalist.

In fact, neither did Nieto acknowledge the fact that he went against a government official – Presidential Task Force on Media Safety executive director Joel Sy Egco – calling him a traitor for rightly coming to Aznar’s defense.

He even had the temerity to question the veracity of the fact-checking done by Vera Files, which just happens to be the only media outfit in the country accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, which totally demolished his claims.

That Nieto did all this under oath should have earned him a perjury charge or a contempt citation at the very least. That he did so as a consultant of the DFA, paid with the people’s money, makes it a hundred times worse. Indeed, that the DFA even considered taking him in says much of how low the standards of governance have sunk and how much premium quality service to the people means to the government.

RJ Nieto dares demand accountability? We say, let him be accountable himself. There is no place in government – or in the field of professional communications, for that matter – for barefaced liars. – Jo Clemente, acting chair, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily and Rappler.com.

1 An earlier version of this article contains the statement “We know what she did with photos of Honduras, Brazil and Vietnam so I won’t belabor the point.”Opps. The Philippine News Agency (PNA), not Uson, published a photo of the Vietnam war and identified it as one taken in Marawi.

It’s my turn to apologize. There
are a few news articles online that mention Uson, PNA, and the photos of Honduras and Vietnam war. It’s clear I got them mixed up. Sorry.

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