The recent suspension of investigative correspondent Brian Ross by ABC News, following his misleading report claiming former national security advisor, Lt. General Michael Flynn, was directed by then-candidate Donald Trump to get in contact with the Russian government amid the 2016 US presidential campaign, drew many parallels with the way in which media in the Philippines is utilized.
Fox News chief national correspondent Ed Henry noted in a recent interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee the consequences of the false report.
“The impact where [Ross] reports falsely that candidate Trump directed General Flynn to reach out to the Russians and that this may have led to collusion and that this, may then, basically, lead to impeachment, which leads the markets to crash,” he explained. “They correct it after the markets have closed and the media narrative has been set.”
One can even theorize, with the stock market hitting new records every week since Trump was elected president, ABC News intentionally caused the stock market to fall by dropping such a bombshell story and, after the smoke clears from Ross’ apology and subsequent suspension, the next story, “Stock market tumbles-” and link it the president, ignoring the fact that it was started by “fake news.”
It appears completely feasible as this also isn’t the first time Ross has been caught throwing out false claims just to score political points.
Shortly after the 2012 shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, which left 12 dead and 70 injured, the “journalist” alleged, merely based on a shared name, the shooter had links to the Tea Party, a conservative group that opposes big government policies.
Just like the Flynn story, Ross apologized back then as well… after the narrative was already set.
The news also sent opponents into a frenzy, with one of the most striking reactions coming from Joy Behar, one of the co-hosts of the talk show The View, where a staffer was sent to run on stage as the show was airing and hand her a card, saying, “Breaking news.” She goes on to read the note, reiterating the deceptive report, and ending with her cheering and the rest of the panel (minus co-host Meghan McCain) giddily celebrating in their seats.
Following the correction, McCain has since criticized her co-hosts’ behavior.
“If we’re celebrating a breach of national security,” she said. “It’s going to tear our country apart.”
In addition, despite the visible contrast between her and her colleagues on the matter, McCain added, “What we did on Friday, that’s what I was accused of being a part of.”
Co-host Sunny Hostin, who serves as senior legal analyst for ABC News, responded by claiming the hosts celebrating dishonest reporting was part of having a free press, calling it “the bedrock of our democracy.”
Is that the pervading opinion about the media in the US? News, whether truthful or not, as long as it fits a narrative, should be embraced? While it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the news media is blatantly views their job in such a way (at least from the perspective of ABC News), it is, however, the perceived purpose of the news media in the Philippines.
Have previously discussed the way the media operates locally, along with the international community very much aware of how the news typically only serves those in elected office or their influential financial backers. In this position, have witnessed threats from politicians following certain news reports, elected official directing news media on how to do their job, and groups who believe the news media is in a position to act an advocacy group.
Last weekend, the National Mines and Allied Workers Union (NAMAWU) Local 103, currently involved in an ownership dispute at the shuttered Maricalum Mining Corporation (MMC) site in Sipalay City called on the media to promote their cause. The union is seeking the assistance of President Rodrigo Duterte on the matter and hoped the media would be there to help them. Their view promotes the belief the news media is there to advocate certain causes. For a group as prominent as a labor union to have such an assessment of the industry, it must have come from somewhere.
This ties in with a subject that has been tackled by this column multiple times, the government and its influence on how news is covered.
There was the case just last October in Bacolod City, after a story reporting on the contents of an affidavit was published, those named – a handful of local politicians – called a press conference and said they were planning to sue, not only the individual who submitted the legal document, but the media agency that reported the story. Clearly, it is one thing to sue an individual for defamation, and possible perjury; but to claim a news organization has a hand in the matter by simply reporting on a legal document is a dangerous precedent.
The situation, while jarring, is par for the course, based on research by international media observers.
Both Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) and the Human Rights Report, which is conducted by the United States Department of State, both found a tendency for elected officials to go after news outlets that report news critical of certain politicians – and the elected officials usually get away with it.
“[The] Philippines continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for the media,” the Reporters Sans Frontières report surmised. “Private militias, often hired by local politicians, silence journalists with complete impunity.”
“Many journalists reported an uptick in online threats, including threats of violence and harassment, in response to articles posted online that were critical of the government,” Human Rights Report noted. “Authorities used criminal defamation charges, which carry the possibility of imprisonment and fines, to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against journalists.”
The trend has caused an evident chilling effect among local media.
There was another issue that came up that month as well, during a time when there was an uptick of crime in Bacolod City, politicians publicly called on the news media to “scale down the reporting of these incidents.” The reasoning on why the public should be shielded from news that impacts their personal security? To ensure the region continues “bringing in tourists and investors.”
Hide news for the purpose of not damaging a politician’s reputation, sounds like public relations rather than journalism; yet, having been in the field for only less than two years, it is more than apparent that is how the media operates – which explains the reputation.
While American media has its fair share of critics on the way they cover news, with some organizations carrying a clear bias, do Brian Ross and his supporters, those calling his initial report a “bedrock of our democracy,” really want the embrace this narrative-driven reputation of the media?
The news media in the Philippines is unquestionably proud of being sycophants for those in power, filtering stories to ensure elected official are not angry with them the next day for their reporting, even expressing their disdain at colleagues who refuse to go along, but that practice only makes media practitioners lackeys for the elite – certainly not something one can call an honorable profession./WDJ