Cut The BS: Should Philippine Media Stop Airing And Live-Tweeting False Statements?

Let's not forget, journalists are not just transcribers.

Filipinos who watched President Rodrigo Duterte‘s televised address last Tuesday evening are now demanding local news outlets to have the same energy on coverage as the U.S. national elections.

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False news stories have proliferated online in recent years. Social media sites such as Facebook and more recently, Twitter, have received sharp criticism for giving coverage to fake news and statements, which causes more panic and rage from ordinary citizens. 

In America, major U.S. news outlets have abruptly cut the airtime of Donald Trump when he spread disinformation on live television after the results of the elections. Now, Filipinos are expecting the same treatment towards our public officials.

President Duterte spent almost 20 minutes of his speech last Tuesday evening, alleging Vice President Leni Robredo of spreading lies about his whereabouts during the onslaught of Ulysses and the rescue in Cagayan. He placed the responsibility of the trended hashtag, #NasaanAngPangulo on her. However, the VP never asked about the President’s absence in any of her social media updates, interviews, nor public appearances.

Journalists on Twitter who were live-tweeting the President’s speech were criticized for not fact-checking Duterte’s statement before posting it on their socials. This raised a discussion on how the media should treat false statements in their coverage moving forward.

Joseph Morong, one of the journalists who have been criticized for live-tweeting the speech, questioned the people. “If I censored what the President said, would you also accuse me of protecting his image?” Which was then rebuked by several Twitter respondents under his tweet, saying that censorship is different from fact-checking and contextualizing statements.

Atom Araullo noted that live-tweeting events, briefings, and speeches has been an industry practice for a long time. “Should we reconsider the practice of live-tweeting the president’s speeches (or any official for that matter) if we cannot fact-check his statements on the spot? It has become industry practice, but we might have to reimagine our coverage in the age of mis/disinformation,” Araullo wrote.

Felipe Salvosa tweeted, “Journalists need to be weaned off the old standard of cold and neutral reporting, which has been hijacked by purveyors of falsehoods in the officialdom who used to have guaranteed spots in the news.”

Jeff Canoy also quoted an article from the Washington Post about false balance in the media: “Forcing balance where there is none is not journalistically ethical. It’s not part of the proud and essential tradition of truth-telling and evaluation, either. At best, it’s lazy. At worst, it’s an abdication of the media’s responsibility.”

Furthermore, with our democracy threatened and major news outlets are being shut down, more people will turn to the remaining news outlets for updates. So, it should be up to us, the journalists, to relay responsible and truthful information when necessary.