Blogger or Asec? The Most Interesting Points From Today's “Fake News” Hearing

Plus, self-discrimination versus self-incrimination.

( news,” correctly termed as wrong information, was the hottest issue on the lawmakers' plate during a hearing at the senate today, October 4. Chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, the Senate Committee on Public Information and Media probed the rampant spread of misinformation on the Internet. This was done in the presence of several veteran journalists like Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas and InterAksyon Editor-in-Chief Roby Alampay, social media influencers like Franco Mabanta and Rey Joseph “RJ” Nieto of Thinking Pinoy, and officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office like Mocha Uson—who also handles Mocha Uson Blog.



The heated debate reinforced the notion that there are some bloggers who need a bit of a refresher on what journalism is, particularly responsible journalism. 


With great power (or number of followers), comes great responsibility.

This Spider Man quote is just as applicable to many things. Uson maintains she is a blogger who doesn't have to follow journalistic practices. To this, Sen. Bam Aquino pointed out: “You have millions of followers. You have a bigger responsibility. […] Hindi na pwedeng magtago na blogger kayo, 'di journalist." To close the hearing, Poe added, “There should also be accountability on the part of bloggers and online writers.”



Sen. Nancy Binay on the other hand stated that a government worker like Uson should be aware of Republic Act 6713 under Section 4. "Nakasulat dun, we can’t use the excuse of doing things in your capacity as a private individual o parang malinaw na malinaw na at this point in time hindi mo na pwedeng ihiwalay yung pagiging blogger mo sa pagiging Asec. mo," she emphasized. The lawmaker also said that it's "high time for [her] to decide kung gusto [niyang] maging blogger o maging Asec."


Information has to be double-sourced.

The two-source rule specifies that you have to always verify your information. It gets a bit trickier with the rise of online media outlets so you may have to triple- or quadruple-source your facts. As Sen. Poe explained, "It doesn't mean that if it's published, it means it's reliable. Hindi dapat nagpo-post nang hindi nagche-check. [...] Siguro it would be good if we vet sources before we post." This solon just gets it.


News doesn't take sides.

The first item on the Philippine Journalist's Code of Ethics (1998) goes: "I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and to correct substantive errors promptly." Sen. Aquino confronted Uson on the issue of fairness and asked: "Sa dami-dami ng mga blog mo tungkol sa’min dito, may isang beses ba na humingi ka ng side namin?" The Assistant Secretary refused to answer this and invoked her "right to... against self- discri... ano, against self-incrimination."

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There's no such thing as fake news.

In a Facebook post, journalist Raffy Tima asserted that: "Fake news is a misnomer. It’s either news or fake information. News by its very essence is factual information about current events." During the senate hearing, Tordesillas and ABS-CBN's Chi Gonzales likewise objected to the phrase and said that the more appropriate term should be "misinformation." The Vera Files president couldn't put it more succinctly: "Fake news are lies masquerading as truth."


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