MANILA – National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) calls out for public attention the brazen twisting of the truth committed by the Daily Tribune in its December 3, 2018 banner story “‘Papa Kiko’ joins DU30 war.”
NUJP said it would be tempting to dismiss as stupid how the Tribune has equated Pope Francis’ statement that it is the duty of governments to fight drug traffickers as “the strongest temporal endorsement imaginable” for Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
“But that would imply a simple lack of intelligence, which this clearly is not. This is a deliberate act. This is a newspaper openly peddling a lie,” asserted NUJP.
In a statement sent to media outlets and union members, NUJP continued: Why else would it even carry the blurb, “Pope Francis is absolutely right! Amen” and include this absolutely false claim: “Pope Francis added his voice to the growing list of leaders supporting the war on drugs after United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres and US President Donald Trump both called for global action against the menace.”
Well, maybe Trump, if we go by that leaked congratulatory phone call he made to Duterte.
This is a horrible abuse of freedom of the press, which does not belong to the press but to the people, and which journalists wield in the service of the people’s sacred right to know on the tacit understanding that this right can only be served with the truth, said NUJP.
Let us be clear on one other point. It would be too easy to lay all the blame on the owner of the byline the story is credited to.
But while the news process may begin with the reporter, it certainly does not end there.
There are layers of gatekeeping and even retelling a story undergoes before it is deemed fit to publish or air. And for a banner story the vetting and selection very often goes all the way to the top – the editor-in-chief or publisher, at times, even the owners.
Clearly, this twisted piece of – no, to call it journalism would be an insult to the noble profession – whatever you wish to call it had the imprimatur of the Tribune’s top officers.
We leave it to their consciences to come to grips with their reasons for doing so.
But this – and those responsible for it – deserves the strongest condemnation of independent Filipino journalists, not only for its shameless flouting of all standards of professionalism and ethics but, just as important, for potentially worsening the risks faced by colleagues who labor daily under the incessant and false accusations of “fake news” from an administration that has proven itself to be a master of disinformation.