Journalism, Media Studies

Fake News: Media Distorting Reality

Misinformation or Disinformation is now more commonly called Fake News. But Mis/Disinformation is nothing new. World media, including Philippine media, have been doing that for a long time.

While going through my old computer files, I saw this note I wrote to my classmates in a Media Literacy graduate class almost 20 years ago:


Feb. 13, 2003:
“For some reasons, I could not record the TV news programs. So, as an academic exercise prelude to my report this coming Thursday, may I ask the class to watch closely the news programs regarding the AFP assault on the MILF at Pikit and other areas in Cotabato as well as the US war against Iraq. Please keep in mind the following: Who are the sources? (military, MILF, people, etc.), Is there any explanation about the cause of the incident? Are the explanations credible? Who are the sources for the explanations?, etc.

Tonight, in GMA-7, Mike Enriquez said that the UN inspection team has reported their findings and said, “at ito ang sinabi ni Blix”. Blix was then shown speaking before the UN body. He said that Iraq has given them access to all the sites, including presidential and private places as well as to sites previously not included in the list and that such access remains.” Blix seemed very positive. But before Blix could say the findings, Enriquez interrupted the clip and said that the UN expects to find Saddam guilty of creating biological and nuclear weapons, etc.
(Note: Hans Blix was Executive Chair of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission)

Enriquez’s report seemed antithetical to what Blix was saying.

In the case of the Cotabato war, all news coverage was from military sources. The announcer of Channel 2 was even walking hand in hand with Sec. Angelo Reyes. In Alec Bacolodan’s report, he and his crew were shown going to Bullioc, the center of fighting. He said that there is now proof that Bullioc is the “war factory” of the MILF. The camera showed some foxholes and one RPG missile that did not explode. But there was no “war factory” shown at all.

In a related event, UP held a discussion / symposium on the US war on Iraq. President Nemenzo sent a memo to the UP community urging them to protest the war. The Chancellor sent a memo for teachers to excuse the students who would attend the symposium followed by a candle-lit march for peace. I went there. It was pitiful. There were very few students. Nemenzo and other professors and students spoke. A paper by Nemenzo entitled “Hands off Iraq” distributed there, Nemenzo wrote:

“If the peoples of the world applaud him as our government does, Bush will be encouraged to attack the other elements of what he calls the “axis of evil”. The Texas cowboy seems bent on intervening wherever US power is challenged. North Korea and Cuba may be next in line. Peace is the unlikely outcome of such an adventure. It is more likely to foment religious discord and a wave of retaliatory actions. Let it not be said the UP stood silent as the Bush-fire grows into conflagration.”

With the pitiful number of students in attendance in that symposium and candle-lit march, it seems like it CAN be said that UP stood silent. In fact, although channel 7 was there to cover the event, it was not shown on TV.

What happened to UP students? This is not the UP I once knew.


Feb, 14, 2007:

What I wrote then (in 2003) is still very relevant today (2007). It shows how blatantly the Press or Media distort reality.

Most reports regarding the Moros have one source – Armed Forces of the Philippines. Sometimes, Malacanang officials are the sources. In fact, the Press is not allowed to cover military action in Mindanao on the grounds that it is “dangerous”.

The editorializing of news presenters / anchors / reporters is quite common. And sometimes, as exemplified by the example on Mike Enriquez, the presenters lie. Blix and the UN did not find “Saddam guilty of creating biological and nuclear weapons,..” .And as we now all know, Messrs. Bush and Blair lied to the people about Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction.” Enriquez’s actions were part of the Media’s “weapons of Mass Deception.”

Stories like Bacolodan’s report abound. Once I saw a news feature which showed a purportedly abandoned Abu Sayyaf lair. The reporter said that evidence of highly sophisticated bomb materials were found all over area. The camera showed cans of paints. What was sophisticated about cans of paints? Can they even be made into bombs?

As for UP’s apathy, the Nemenzo days were the good old days. Nemenzo was a principled activist. His successor is something else. She would never excuse students so they can attend meaningful discussion on very important issues. But she would exempt everyone from classes in order to attend something like a Lantern Parade. Roman has made UP even more expensive than some private schools. The undiscounted tuition for incoming students now reaches 1,500 pesos per unit! And the students are not even up in arms about it.


July 21, 2022:

Now, so many so-called experts are talking about Fake News. And they blame mostly social media. And they do not even differentiate between bloggers and those who post on their Facebook accounts and pages and Twitter accounts. For instance, they call Mocha Uson a blogger when she doesn’t even own a blog. All she has is a Facebook page. She also had a column in a major mainstream newspaper, the Philippine Star!!

Misinformation, disinformation and Fake News are everywhere in mainstream media. For example, in the BBM campaign rally in Las Pinas, mainstream newspapers headlined that 400,000 to 500,000 attended the rally. Manila Bulletin, quoting an anonymous UniTeam staff member wrote “with a 12-kilometer long road full of people on both sides, with a conservative 20 layers of people (but in fact there were more) on each side, computed at one person per meter, there would already be 480,000 people, and including the thousands of supporters who went to The Tent, the grand total number of those who sacrificed and paid tribute and support to the BBM-Sara UniTeam in the two cities, may likely exceed 500,000,”

First of all, the total population of Las Pinas is just around 600,000. That would mean that practically everybody there went out of their houses to see the event. Secondly, no sidewalk in Las Pinas can hold 20 layers of people on both sides!” That is nothing but hyperbole. However, hyperbole is not intended to be understood literally. But Manila Bulletin journalists (if they can be called that) intended people to take the figure as truthful.

ABS CBN news reported:” PNP Las Piñas chief PCol. Jaime Santos has belied the claim, saying approximately only 18,000 people were present at Bongbong’s caravan along Alabang-Zapote Road and his campaign rally at The Tent combined,” according to

The Fake News in mainstream media has become so blatant that they become outright lies.

The great danger here is that the fake news in mainstream media are widely shared in social media. And practically every Filipino with a cellphone has a Facebook account. And since mainstream media orgs supposedly adhere to ethics of Journalism, so many believe their lies.

As for UP, thanks to President Duterte, many poor students are now able to afford tuition fee. Duterte reduced it to zero. And like in politics, same names seem to be coming to power. If Marcos, Jr is now Philippine president following the footsteps of his father, Fidel Nemenzo is now UP President, following the footsteps of his own father, Dr. Francisco ‘Dodong’ Nemenzo.

Plus ça change, plus ça reste la meme chose.

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