OPINION: Threatening reporters, not journalism, is a crime

Ellen T. Tordesillas

Posted at Oct 04 2016 11:56 PM

Once again, warped thinking was on full display when Yolly Reyes Junto posted on Facebook her rant against Reuters reporters Manny Mogato and Karen Lerma over the story of President Duterte comparing himself with Adolf Hitler.

Junto’s Oct. 1 post started with a purported disclaimer: “I am no Duterte fanatic. I criticize him more scathingly than anyone when his mouth is out of line. But this time, Duterte really didn’t say anything wrong."

Then her tirades against the Reuters reporters: "The real culprits behind the fuss over his Hitler comment are Karen Lema and Manuel Mogato, two Filipino reporters of the Reuters news agency, who wrote this article: ‘Philippines’ Duterte likens himself to Hitler, wants to kill millions of drug addicts.’.”

Reuters’ report focused on this quote by Duterte upon his arrival from Vietnam last Sept. 30. Addressing the international concern over the rising number of those killed in his campaign against illegal drugs, Duterte said, ”Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts…I’d be happy to slaughter them." 

He continued: “At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have what you know (pointing to himself). My victims, I would like to be — all criminals — to finish the problem and save the next generation from perdition.”

Reuters, being an international news agency with bureaus all over the world, immediately got reactions from relevant government officials of other countries and Jewish organizations who all found Duterte’s remarks “disgusting” and “offensive.”

Two days after, Duterte apologized saying it was “never an intention on my part to derogate the memory of the six million Jews murdered.”

At least, he didn’t blame the reporters like what Junto did. “These malicious and irresponsible journalists are the true enemies of Philippine democracy, and they should be punished with the full force of the law,” Duterte’s supporter said.

She further said “Irresponsible journalists must be punished.”

Reporters are used to people not agreeing with their reports. We are in a democracy and we recognize each and every one’s right to air his or her views.

It’s in that same spirit that those who do not find published reports pleasant should not take it against the reporters. What should matter is the accuracy of the report.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issued a statement underscoring that “journalism is no crime.”

“But threatening journalists when their reportage is disagreeable or erroneous is criminal, as is helping spread these threats, especially if any harm should befall the subjects of such opprobrium,” NUJP’s chairman, Ryan D. Rosauro, stressed.

Reporters are not infallible. We commit mistakes and if that happens, we apologize and make corrections. That’s part of our responsibility to the public.

In the case of Mogato’s and Lema’s story, there was no misquotation nor distortion committed in their report on Duterte’s Hitler comments.

Since Junto said she criticizes Duterte “when his mouth is out of line”, maybe she should join the call of Duterte allies like Sen. Dick Gordon and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for the President to “moderate his language” and be a statesman as what a president should be.

If and when that happens, Duterte and his admirers are assured media will report it as accurately as we have reported all that he said the past 100 days.

------

Blog: www.ellentordesillas.com

Email: [email protected]

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.