Journalists call for vigilance in age of disinformation

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 12 2018 12:45 PM

MANILA - Journalists came together Monday vowing to remain vigilant in the face of a government that has repeatedly attacked the news media but is also blamed for peddling "lies" and fake news.

"This government really has no qualms about lying," complained veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas, who warned that the approach was creating a "chilling effect" and "poisoning the atmosphere."

Malacañang has denied involvement in the spread of so-called fake news, which has "no place" in government policy, according to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.

Tordesillas' group, VERA Files, showed a fact-checking video identifying inconsistencies, misleading statements, or outright lies in President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements.

She cited the need to ensure that journalists would "not allow ourselves to peddle false information" while covering Duterte.

Countering so-called lies also peddled by Duterte’s supporters is also a challenge, journalists gathered at a Makati forum acknowledged.

Among them: “sexifying” legitimate stories in a social media environment of well-disguised fake news and peddlers who attract a strong following.

"This is a case where the truth is a much harder sell than the lies," Cherian George, a journalism scholar from Singapore, told the forum.

Journalists are in a "shit-hole dilemma," said George, a journalism scholar from Singapore, citing Duterte’s use of vulgarity and drawing comparisons with US President Donald Trump’s choice of words.

Duterte should not be seen as a mere news subject but also someone "providing drama," said PR practitioner Ron Jabal, a former journalist.

"He is giving you a performance," he said.

"You just have to tell the truth," communication educator Diosa Labiste advised journalists, who have been heavily criticized by the President and his supporters.

Jabal urged journalists should remain "vigilant and continue fact-checking."