MindaNews’ 2013 photo on media safety training maliciously used to red-tag journo in 2020

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 May) –  A MindaNews photograph of a simulation exercise during the first aid module of the country’s first all-women media safety training in Cagayan de Oro City in March 2013 has been maliciously used to red-tag a journalist, an act MindaNews vehemently condemns.

A certain Aram dela Cruz posted on social media on Wednesday, May 13, a 2013 photograph lifted from the MindaNews website showing Rowena Carranza Paraan, head of ABS-CBN’s News Public Service and Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo in what may seem like a forest setting, with ten other women and what looks like an injured man on the foreground, and captioned it: “Ano ang tunay na ugnayan ni Rowena Paraan (NUJP, Head ng Bayan Mo Ipatrol Mo, ng ABS-CBN” at ng CPP-NPA-NDF. Alam ba ito ng ABS-CBN?”  (What is the real connection between Paraan and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front. Does ABS-CBN know this?)” On the same page, Dela Cruz also posted a solo photo of Paraan.

On the right side is the 2013 photo of MIndaNews taken by VIc Kintanar during a simulation exercise on administering first aid to an injured persons during the historic all-women media safety training in Cagayan de Oro City. On the left is the same photo posted by one Aram Dela Cruz on March 13, 2020.

The group photograph was taken by photojournalist Vic Kintanar at the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village in Cagayan de Oro City, venue of the  March 16-17, 2013 “1st All-Women Risk Awareness and Media Safety Training,” during a simulation exercise on administering first aid to an injured person. The first aid module was  facilitated by Paraan, then chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and herself a media safety trainer certified by the International News Safety Institute.

Kintanar’s photo was featured in the March 17, 2013 MindaNews article “Women journalists, media workers gather for 1st all-women safety training.”

The ten women around Paraan were fellow journalists from various parts of Mindanao who attended the training on how to keep safe during hostile situations, while the person who acted “injured,” the lone male in the photograph, was a reporter who attended a trainer’s training that preceded the all-women safety training.

The historic all-women safety training was organized by NUJP in coordination with the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, which handled two sessions.

Participants of the 1st All-Women Risk Awareness and Media Safety Training on March 16 and 17, 2013 with male reporters who attended the trainers’ training that preceded the all-women training in Malasag Eco-Tourism Village in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo courtesy of Rommel L. Rutor

Lives in danger

MindaNews condemns the malicious use of the 2013 photograph as it endangers the lives of Paraan, the 10 Mindanao-based women journalists in the photograph and the lone male reporter who acted as the “injured” person.

Paraan reposted MindaNews’ March 17, 2013 story on her social media account Wednesday night for “those who want to maliciously twist a media safety training photo taken in 2013, conducted in coordination with the 4th ID.”

She said it was good there was an article on the training but “unfortunately, some people are using the MindaNews photo to mislead others.”

READ: Women journalists, media workers gather for 1st all-women safety training

Paraan learned about Dela Cruz’ post through Pagadian City-based journalist Leah Agonoy, a participant in the March 2013 safety training, who was alerted at 3 pm on Wednesday by an Army official who saw Agonoy in the photograph, forwarded it to her and asked “is this you?”

Agonoy told MindaNews she  quickly replied it was taken during a media safety training in Cagayan de Oro “coordinated with the military” and that if she were red-tagged, he would know why.

Dela Cruz’ post has been taken down but it had been shared by many.

But Factrakers, a fact-checking website of a journalism course at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City under the supervision of Associate Professor Yvonee Chua,  reported on Thursday that the MindaNews photo was misappropriated by Enlightened Pinoy in two posts on May 13,  the first claiming the photo shows wounded members of the New People’s Army (NPA) being treated in a forest.

MIndaNews could not ascertain if Dela Cruz posted the photograph ahead of Enlightened Pinoy because his post could no longer be found.

Factrakers noted that Enlightened Pinoy’s first post using the photo at 12:26 p.m. on May 13 reads, in all caps, “Run NPA run. Mga larawan ng mga NPA na sugatan at ginamot nalang sa kagubatan” (Run NPA run. Pictures of injured NPA rebels being treated in the forest).

From the fact-checking report of FACTRAKERS

Its second post at  4:28 p.m. however, singled out Paraan, insinuating she was connected to the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front and NPA. It reads, again, in all caps, “aaaaay bistado‼️ paki explain. Ano ang tunay na ugnayan ni Rowena Paraan, (NUJP) Head ng Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo, ng ABS-CBN,,, at ng CPP-NPA-NDF??? Anong ginagawa niyo sa bundok” [Exposed! Please explain. What is the real connection between Rowena Paraan, (NUJP) head of Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo of ABS-CBN , and the CPP-NPA_NDF? What are you doing in the mountain?]

READ: 2013 media safety training photo misused to red-tag journalist 

Citing data from the social media monitoring tool, Crowdtangle, the Factrakers said Enlightened Pinoy’s first post generated 1,238 interactions while the second, which singled out Paraan,  “was reposted or shared by other pages, including Enlightened Youth and Bukas Isip, and at least 27 groups that have a combined following of 1.7 million” and collected more than 3,500 interactions.”

Enlightened Pinoy has nearly 85,000 followers, the Factrakers said.

False context

NUJP chair Nonoy Espina told MindaNews it is “really unfortunate that there are quarters, taking their cue from officials of the state’s security machinery, who resort to lies and threats against persons falsely accused of being enemies of the state. If security officials can even fictionalize public outrage against the ABS-CBN shutdown as a communist plot, what more can they not do?”

Addressing Dela Cruz in her social media post, Zamboanga City-based Julie Alipala of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, who also attended the training seven years ago, said red-tagging is a “serious matter,”  as it would pose danger to the journalists in the photograph, who were in fact  undergoing a safety training that included a session facilitated by soldiers on “how to be safe during bombing, ambush and shooting war.”

“Malaki ang naitulong ng mga sundalo sa exercise na yun, gamit gamit hanggang sa coverage sa Marawi at Zamboanga siege” (The soldiers helped us a lot during the exercises, we’ve been using what they taught us during the Marawi and Zamboanga siege).

The Zamboanga Siege happened in September 2013 or six months after the training, while Marawi was from May 23 to October 23, 2017.

Chua, a multi-awarded journalist who teaches Journalism at the University of the Philippines in Diliman and who supervises the work of her students in Factrakers, said the post is “an example of false context, or decontextualizing true content” which is “a serious type of disinformation.”

“It’s obviously another instance of red-tagging, an increasingly disturbing and deplorable trend we’ve been witnessing. In this case, the disinformation and red-tagging have put these women journalists in danger,” Chua told MindaNews.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)