Media's Public

Complaint vs. Inquirer, ABS-CBN

By Pachico A. Seares
Public & Standards Editor
Sun.Star Cebu and Sun.Star Superbalita

Duterte rants on ‘corrupt and unfair’ media and its ‘oligarch’ owners

When President Duterte last June 4 declared a boycott on media, following his May 31 blast on media corruption and virtual endorsement of killing corrupt journalists he didn’t name any news organization, journalist or media owner.

The other day, March 30, in two speeches in Malacañang, he named the Inquirer and ABS-CBN and their owners — “the Prietos and the Lopezes” — cursing and shaming them.

The word “oligarch” may not be totally derogatory but “scourge of society” is. And “you smell bad,” “jerks,” “you’re crazy,” “shameless,” and “you’re full of shit” are surely foul language that a government leader wouldn’t publicly use on anyone, especially owners of giant news organizations.

Killing the poor

But strip Duterte’s criticism of slander, expletives and ad hominem. Which of his complaints against Inquirer and ABS-CBN deserve hearing and consideration?

Against the Inquirer, Duterte wailed about corrupt or paid publishing, “slanted reports” (“too much slant”), “putting out garbage,” and the paper’s having “never been fair” to him.

If that’s broad and thin, as far as it covers the attack against Inquirer, his denunciation of ABS-CBN is limited to lumping the broadcast network with the newspaper: “[Inquirer], you are bullshit, you too ABS-CBN”; “there’s no shame, including ABS-CBN”).

Is Inquirer paid for the news and comments it publishes as Duterte alleges? No particulars or proof given. Closest to something specific in his blast against the Inquirer was his reference to PDI’s March 26 Page 1 banner headline, “Duterte to poor: I’m sorry if you die.” His gripe: “They’re the ones saying I’m killing the poor, it’s really bullshit, it’s really garbage.”

To the Duterte camp, the focus or slant on the Duterte quote must be Inquirer’s sin, never mind that the president actually said it and its context was adequately given in the story.

Blaming the report

It must have been the impact that the presentation of the story, which other media similarly reported but didn’t tell and display it the Inquirer way.

As most politicians do, Duterte talked vaguely and generally about past “bullshit and garbage”: “even during the elections.”

The problem is common among news sources, more notably the politicians: when what they say or do comes out adversely to them when it is reported, they blame the reporting.

Public trust

When Duterte said the infamous quote about killing the poor as a necessary consequence of fighting the drug problem, he probably didn’t think it would’ve that impact when published. It seems, from the way its communicators have been saying, Malacañang believes it is media’s job to “sanitize” stories and remove or minimize comments damaging to the president.

Dispute on “slant” and “fairness” will never be settled if politicians and other news sources blame media for the effect of their words and deeds. And as long as there’s no independent arbiter on media performance, each side will insist it is right.

Media can only seek refuge in the trust of its public, earned through years of hard work and evidenced by recognition of prestigious award-giving bodies. Ultimately, credibility will help media survive assaults by aggrieved news sources.



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