MANILA - Foreign correspondents in the Philippines on Thursday denounced bribery claims against media and calls for only positive reporting on the Philippine hosting of the Southeast Asian Games, which has seen early woes including unfinished venues and food preparation issues, among others.
In a statement, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) hit local organizers for "blaming the media partly for the flurry of negative reports on logistical issues that were raised publicly by Philippine and Southeast Asian athletes and officials themselves."
"Independent journalists report problems and issues imbued with public interest as they happen and become evident and do not delay the time to press for accountability. We report defeats and victories, failures and triumphs," said the group.
FOCAP members said they "specially take exception" to claims by the Games' lead organizer, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, of attempts to bribe journalists to publish malicious reports on the games.
"Such sweeping accusations, without a shred of evidence and laced with threats of libel suits, are totally unacceptable and tend to intimidate journalists from reporting irregularities objectively," the group said.
Cayetano had said Thursday there was a "smear campaign" against the Games, claiming that some members of the media had admitted that "money was flowing" for some sites to publish fake news about the hosting.
Complaints about the Games' logistics, including late transport, inadequate food, and problems surrounding the accreditation of journalists covering the event earlier came up, with athletes and delegations reporting incidents themselves.
This even before the formal opening of the biennial games on Saturday.
President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed dismay over early hitches in the games. Malacañang is expected to investigate the hosting issues, and Cayetano said he was ready to face the probe.
FOCAP also hit appeals by organizers for the media to only report on the positive aspects of the hosting, saying such calls "betray our bedrock mandate of providing the public with truthful information that is at the heart of the basic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution."
"Doing their work diligently and honestly would be the best way for independent journalists to show love for country and people in this jubilant season of sportsmanship. Anything less would be tantamount to cheating that is so detested in athletics," the group said.