Category: Media Issues

Fake News: View of a non-journalist

  By Rev. Fr. Ramon D. Echica [Based on his talk at the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) media forum during Cebu Press Freedom Week 2019, held at MBF Cebu Press…

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By Rev. Fr. Ramon D. Echica

[Based on his talk at the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) media forum during Cebu Press Freedom Week 2019, held at MBF Cebu Press Center in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City last Sept. 19, 2019. The other speaker at the forum was Jason A. Baguia, a  communication teacher-researcher at U.P. Cebu and former Cebu Daily News columnist.]

I am offering my reflections on fake news neither as a cleric nor part of the academe, although I also cannot leave these two hats behind. I like to think that this piece simply comes from a non-journalist, sharing his thoughts to the professional practitioners of journalism.

The landscape of mainstream media is changing rapidly in large part because of social media. Like almost all things, this novel phenomenon has its upsides and downsides. On the former, social media connects people. It is now possible to talk to someone miles away, and free of charge. Indeed, most people believe they are better off with social media than with none.


It is fake news when it is used by political leaders to harass journalists and there is threat of greater harm. Media consumers need to think critically. And journalists can be more honest about their biases and not fail to apologize for their mistakes.


But on its downside, in its social media where people show their narcissism. People post on facebook some trashy materials and what should not be for public consumption. There seems to be an information overload because of social media. Furthermore, one inevitably compromises one’s privacy if one enters into social media.

 Dramatizing discourse

On the political front, social media democratizes discourse. Before the advent of social media, Juan de la Cruz participates in political discourse mainly through the ballot. If Juan de la Cruz wants to be heard through media, he is to write a letter to the editor, and very few have the talent and the patience to do so. But today, anyone can make a post.

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Cebu journalists exposed to China media, culture in group visits

It is  new only because the invitation comes from China through “private organizations.” For decades a similar grant, but for trips to the United States, was offered by the American…

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It is  new only because the invitation comes from China through “private organizations.” For decades a similar grant, but for trips to the United States, was offered by the American state department’s Visitor’s Program and accepted by a number of local newspaper and broadcast practitioners. What is strikingly different is that China’s VP offers glimpses into how media under an autocratic government works.


SINCE 2016,  a number of  mainstream media workers from Cebu have been attending media seminars in China, sponsored purportedly by private institutions through the Chinese consulate office in Cebu.

The latest was organized at the behest of the China International Publishing Group and was held between June 18 and July 19 in Beijing, said Fred Languido who, together with Carlo Lorenciana of “The Freeman” daily newspaper and former “Banat News”  editor John Rey Saavedra, who now works with the government-run Philippine News Agency,  were among the attendees.

Fred Languido: With China.org.cn editor-in-chief Wang Xiaohui.

There were other participants, both journalists and state-employed information officers, from other parts of the Philippines and from six other countries: Iran, Palestine, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

The irony – autocratic China hosting a media event for journalists of mostly democratic countries –  must not have been lost, especially  to the Filipino journalists, who work with the “freest and most robust” media industry in Southeast Asia.

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Expanded Sotto Law to benefit more media practitioners

The amendment to the Sotto Law, also known as Press Freedom Law, expanding the protection to journalists, has finally been approved. The law now covers not just print journalists but …

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The amendment to the Sotto Law, also known as Press Freedom Law, expanding the protection to journalists, has finally been approved. The law now covers not just print journalists but  also  practitioners in broadcast, wire service and  electronic media.

President Duterte signed  Republic Act #1145 last Aug. 30 yet but it was released only Tuesday, Sept. 24.  It amends Republic Act #53, the 73-year-old law enacted in 1946.

The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), which has helped in the drafting of the House version of the bill  (HB# 694), in an en banc meeting last Sept. 19, thanked Rep. Raul V. del Mar as main sponsor who had diligently filed and re-filed the bill in a number of Congresses before it was approved this year.

“The coverage is as wide as it can be, more than most of media expected,”  said  CCPC executive director Pachico A. Seares.

Under the Sotto Law, as amended, the journalist  “cannot   be compelled to reveal the source of any news item, report or information appearing or being reported or disseminated… which was related in confidence” to the said journalist. Only the court or the House of Representatives or the Senate or any committee of Congress  can compel disclosure if it finds that “such revelation is demanded the security of the State.”

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‘TRANS’ JOURNOS

Their work has shifted from newsroom to public information office;  from reporter to publicist;  from being watchdog of public officials to protector of the officials’ public image. They must spread…

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Their work has shifted from newsroom to public information office;  from reporter to publicist;  from being watchdog of public officials to protector of the officials’ public image. They must spread the ‘good news’ about their employer. Yet, they say, they ‘must still be truthful.’


THE Kingdom and the Power, Gay Talese’s 1969 book about the workings of The New York Times, opens with a pistol-shot of truth about journalists.

The most quoted part runs: “Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections of people and places… Gloom is their game, the spectacle their passion, normalcy their nemesis.”

But what happens when circumstances force a reversal of roles where they, who were once trained to spot official misconduct, become public information officers (government-speak for PR persons) paid to hide those “warts and  imperfections?” Continue Reading

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STATEMENT

Cebu Citizens-Press Council Saturday, July 27, 2019 Senator Sotto’s bill doesn’t define ‘false content’ and grants arbitrary power of virtual censorship to government bureaucrats. ​​The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) earnestly…

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Cebu Citizens-Press Council
Saturday, July 27, 2019


Senator Sotto’s bill doesn’t
define ‘false content’ and grants
arbitrary power of virtual
censorship to government
bureaucrats.


​​The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) earnestly asks Senate President Vicente Sotto III to restudy his Senate Bill #9, filed last July 1, 2019, which seeks to prohibit “publication and proliferation of false content” in the internet.

What CCPC believes are the major defects of the bill:

[a] It defines “content” but not “false content,” which is what the Sotto bill seeks to prohibit.

CCPC found the same flaw in Sen. Joel Villanueva’s “fake news” bill, SB 1492 in the 17th Congress. Not specifically defining “false content” will open media — and the rest of the public using the internet — to orders from DOJ to rectify, take down or block access or even prosecution.

The absence of a definition that excludes errors of publication or lapses in editing – violations of journalism norm or standard , as distinguished from malicious falsehood – makes media vulnerable to harassment and persecution from those offended by the published material, mostly public officials.

​​[b] It vests huge power on the DOJ Office of Cybercrime, which can issue those rectify/take-down/block-access orders on complaint or “motu propio” without hearing the alleged offender. The DOJ cybercrime office can exercise its powers without due process; it alone determines “sufficient basis.”

And appeal is made only to the DOJ secretary, enabling one office in one department of the government virtual “censorship” functions. What may alarm is that the procedure allows instant judgment on falsehood with a bureaucrat’s decision promptly executed until it is reversed by a higher bureaucrat.

​​The intention is to shoot down false or fake news. The casualty could be free press and free speech instead.

Pachico A. Seares, Executive Director
Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC)

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Media Self-regulation through Media Literacy: Insights from the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC)

Abstract How does the press regulate itself? Through document research, key informant interviews, and participant observation, the researcher studied how the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) promotes media self-regulation (MSR) among…

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Abstract

How does the press regulate itself? Through document research, key informant interviews, and participant observation, the researcher studied how the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) promotes media self-regulation (MSR) among the Cebu press and media literacy (ML) among citizens and netizens in Cebu, a metropolis in southern Philippines. Led by civil society leaders, the editors-in-chief of Cebu newspapers, and other media leaders, the CCPC conducts MSR through the reactive mechanism of adjudicating complaints about accuracy and fairness or right of reply raised against Cebu’s five local newspapers. Its proactive mechanism involves the promotion of MSR among local journalists and the initiation of ML for citizens and netizens. MSR thrives in a setting that involves four stakeholders: newspapers, media advocacy groups, citizens, and netizens, and it can be enhanced and sustained through ML, which ensures greater participation of citizens and netizens as media watchdogs and defenders of freedom of expression.

Click here for the full text.

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THE 2019 DILI DIALOGUE FORUM

CCPC attendance at Timor Leste meeting enables it to share, and compare, its experience on press councils with other media groups in the region By Karlon N. Rama AN INTERNATIONAL…

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CCPC attendance at Timor Leste meeting enables it to share, and compare, its experience on press councils with other media groups in the region

Representatives from the press councils of Australia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand discuss media challenges in their countries. Other media groups were represented as well — the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen of Indonesia, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance based in Bangkok, Thailand (Kathryn Roja Raymundo, 5th from right), the Cambodian Center for Independent Media based in Phnom Penh, (Danny Caspe, 4th from right), the Philippine Press Institute (Ariel Sebellino, 3rd from right), and CCPC. The named participants are Filipinos. [Photo from Conselho de Imprensa de Timor-Leste]

By Karlon N. Rama

AN INTERNATIONAL organization has shown interest in the interlocking support mechanism that lies at the core of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council, with an official saying it offers approaches that may apply to nascent democracies, where a free and vibrant press is crucial. 

Dr. Lim Ming Kouk noted on the sidelines of the three-day Dili Dialogue Forum (DDF), held in the capital of Timor Leste May 9 and 10, that the “right support from the various sectors of the communities media itself serves” will help address internal and external concerns affecting the press in the region. 


Quick look: Timor Leste allows free use of its public space but is planning to regulate media. It will define “who can broadcast and what can be broadcast.” A government representative sits in that country’s press council. The chairman of East Timor Press Council hopes for “self-regulation” and a media literacy program integrated in the education system.


Dr. Lim serves as advisor for communication and information of the Unesco office in Jakarta that partnered with the Conselho de Imprensa de Timor-Leste (Press Council of East Timor) in hosting the DDF. 
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CCPC cautions public in assessing “media plot”

“A matrix presented by public officials could lead to something more than a verbal attack from those criticized. In the campaign on illegal drugs, many of those in the matrix…

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“A matrix presented by public officials could lead to something more than a verbal attack from those criticized. In the campaign on illegal drugs, many of those in the matrix were killed. The result from the media matrix could be worse: a muzzled or cowed press and journalists in jail, missing, or dead.”

CEBU CITIZENS-PRESS COUNCIL
Statement on the alleged media
plot to destabilize government

One, the news report cited anonymous sources. Two, the basis was a matrix that didn’t show it was evidence-based and  thus could be just self-serving. Three, allegation of a conspiracy of media with other sectors did not mention specific incidents or present documents that tend to prove the “plot.” Four, it came just after a special report on the alleged link of the First Family to illegal drugs and the size of their wealth.

We are tempted to call it garbage but we resist. Instead we ask media consumers  for caution in assessing the accusation. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) already said that “for now,” they see “no specific threat.”

Media knows that in its work, unfavorable exposure of public officials’ dubious behavior  usually draws return fire. While it may be seen as collective assault on the press, the few news media outlets specifically named in the matrix can defend their reports, on content and motive.

The problem stands out though: Which of the mass of stories from media are false or rigged news? Which conduct outside the newsroom is deemed subversive? And it looks incongruous that news media outlets accused of falsehood and fraud in the reports are among the entities actively exposing the fake stories from public officials’ propaganda machines and, occasionally, even in media itself.

We cannot help but be alarmed. A matrix presented by public officials could lead to something more than a verbal attack from those criticized. In the campaign on illegal drugs, many of those in the matrix were killed. The result from the media matrix could be worse: a muzzled or cowed press and journalists in jail, missing, or dead.

We encourage the public to help defend our democratic institutions and systems. They may call out errors of media. And, more crucially, they can avert any attempt to stifle criticism against the conduct of those who govern.

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Under-coverage of local governments: public officials’ gripes, media’s explanation

  Mayors, mostly of LGUs outside Metro Cebu, complain that their projects and programs have not been publicized by mainstream media. “They send out reporters and news crew to us…

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Mayors, mostly of LGUs outside Metro Cebu, complain that their projects and programs have not been publicized by mainstream media. “They send out reporters and news crew to us only when the news is sensational or negative.”

IN THE southern town of Argao, Cebu locals and tourists alike may be jailed if caught smoking at a public place. The local government has had a working anti-smoking ordinance since 2016.  

Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero

Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero, however, laments that this “initiative and other well-meaning programs” in his town have not been given enough exposure or coverage by the Cebu media.

“Even Gov. (Hilario) Davide is not exempted sa ‘no smoking’ ordinance. Apan ang akong smoking ordinance wa pud na ma medya,” the mayor, a medical doctor, says.

One time, Caminero recalls, the Argao government had to launch “Dalagang Argawanon” at the Capitol Social Hall in Cebu City to ensure the event would’ve media coverage.

But are local executives as desirous of media coverage when the story in question tends  to depict them in less than positive light?

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Public officials miss media when they trumpet success. They’re glad reporters are not around when scandal breaks.

While some mayors lament  media “under-coverage” of towns and cities in far-flung areas, which afflicts even urban centers in Metro Cebu that are outside Cebu City, public officials and media…

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Toledo City Mayor John Henry Osmeña.

While some mayors lament  media “under-coverage” of towns and cities in far-flung areas, which afflicts even urban centers in Metro Cebu that are outside Cebu City, public officials and media managers  are not without measures to cope with the situation. Technology and the various media platforms provide wider access for government publicists. And news chiefs just have to be more adept at meeting audience  demand with reduced resources.

WHEN Toledo City Mayor John “Sonny” Osmena sometime ago publicly complained  that Cebu media was not covering his city, he was in the midst of trotting off accomplishments since he assumed as mayor.

Sonny ran for city mayor in 2013 and was reelected in 2016. He griped about media “under-coverage” of Toledo as he announced a string of  successes in his governance. “You come to Toledo only when there is a disaster or a big crime,” he whined.

True enough, as also expressed by other mayors interviewed by  CJJ.

But would these mayors want media coverage if the object of interest were a scandal brought about by official bungling or corruption? Would they not appreciate the lack or absence of  media scrutiny then?

Public officials’ trait

It has been a common trait of politicians, or of most public officials, who rely on public trust to keep their job. Trumpet achievements. Hide or obscure failure.

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