Palace: Guidelines on bloggers ‘silent’ on cursing

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2017 08:09 PM

MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday admitted that its recently released interim accreditation policy cannot prevent social media practitioners who want to cover Palace events and President Rodrigo Duterte's official functions from using profane language in their content or spreading fake news.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), led by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, recently released an interim policy which would allow social media practitioners 18 years old and above with at least 5,000 online followers to cover Palace events.

PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan said the interim policy is “silent” on the use of profanity by social media practitioners.

Social media users are not bound by corporate and industry ethical standards and an information-vetting process that professional journalists must follow. 

Ablan, however, said the PCOO would eventually come up with a more detailed set of rules for them.

“The policy is silent. We’ll leave it to SMO (social media office) headed by Assistant Secretary [Mocha] Uson to decide on that,” Ablan said.

Ablan added that during consultations on the policy, social media practitioners rejected any attempt to regulate their content, and noted that members of the mainstream media are “self-governing.” 

“When we held consultation they, the social media bloggers, actually said that we should not control the content of whatever they write, so we deleted it,” Ablan said in a news conference in Malacañang.

“So as the policy, we deleted that phrase wherein they have to write, meaning to say they were saying that we can’t force them to write. So they will cover the President but we can’t force them to write, again, is using the freedom of speech. And so there is no requirement for them to write but they will be able to cover the President and PCOO activities,” he said.

Ablan, nonetheless, noted that Section 6 of the interim policy provides for the cancellation, withdrawal or suspension of accreditation if a social media practitioner committed “abuse of rights and privileges extended by PCOO and put his or her accreditation to improper use.”

“There is a presumption that when you are given accreditation, that you will conduct yourself like, you know, an ordinary, law-abiding Filipino citizen,” Ablan said.

“So what I mean to say is there is no need to expressly state that you’re not supposed to use profanity in any of your articles,” he added.

Ablan said the administration’s decision to open its gates to social media practitioners was in recognition of their support for the President even during the 2016 election campaign.

“Hopefully, we'll be able to get a balance between mainstream media and social media,” Ablan said. 

Tension has been running high between some in the mainstream media and some social media practitioners, led by PCOO Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.

Uson has accused some mainstream media of being biased against the President. Press freedom advocates and critics of the President, meanwhile, accuse Uson of pitting her millions of followers online against people perceived to be against some of the government’s policies.

Some social media practitioners have also been criticized for their behavior online, including attacks and threats on journalists, and for supposedly spreading misinformation.