NUJP STATEMENT on use of state-run PNA “to legitimize fake news”

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May 20, 2017

PHILIPPINE NEWS AGENCY c/o

Secretary Martin M. Andanar
Presidential Communications Operations Office

Dir. Virginia ArcillaAgtay
News and Information Bureau

Luis A. Morente
Acting Executive Editor

Lilybeth G. Ison
Acting Managing Editor

Dear Sirs/Mmes:

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 (http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/987860) and May 20 (http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/989437) 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 participant-countries 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 figures 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 fulfill its obligations to the eight international treaties ratified 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 (https://www.upr-info.org/database/index.php?limit=0&f_SUR=137&f_SMR=All&order&orderDir=ASC&orderP=true&f_Issue=All&searchReco&resultMax=100&response&action_type&session&SuRRgrp&SuROrg&SMRRgrp&SMROrg&pledges=RecoOnly).

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 position of the countries that attended the UPR.

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.

THE DIRECTORS
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

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