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Abu Sayyaf in MNLF Meeting: A Fellow Journalist as Source | CMFR

Abu Sayyaf in MNLF Meeting: A Fellow Journalist as Source

JEERS TO the Manila Bulletin for failing to verify information on a meeting allegedly called last week by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in Indanan, Sulu, and instead relying on a journalist as its source in reporting that elements of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) attended the meeting.

In “Misuari spotted in Sulu,” the Bulletin relied on information provided by Zamboanga City-based journalist Al Jacinto, who supposedly quoted unidentified “local sources,” in fleshing out the story about the MNLF assembly, which it said was attended by both MNLF followers as well as members of the ASG.

The latter part of the report quoted other sources such as Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco and Zamboanga Police Office Director Sr. Supt. Angelito Casimiro, but neither substantiated the information provided by Jacinto.  The information from Climaco and Casimiro was merely on the presence of MNLF members in Zamboanga who were presumably on their way to Sulu, and did not provide details about what other groups, if any, were attending the meeting. The report was the Bulletin’s banner story on January 11.

The Standard (“Govt surprised by MNLF muster,” January 9, 2016) and the Philippine Daily Inquirer (“Nur presence at MNLF meet in Sulu confirmed,” January 12, 2016) also reported the assembly, but both quoted officials from the MNLF to corroborate the information in their reports.

Consequently, MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza, in an interview on radio dzMM with Noli de Castro, denied that the ASG was invited to the MNLF meeting. Cerveza said the ASG fighters may have been present in the gathering as it coincided with a kanduli or fiesta, and noted that many ASG and MNLF members are blood relatives. (“MNLF denies forging pact with Abu Sayyaf,” ABS-CBNNews.com, January 12, 2016)

The sources cited by the Inquirer, the Standard and ABS-CBNNews.com were all primary sources as opposed to the Bulletin’s secondary source.

It is important for journalists to use primary sources in their reports whenever possible. As stipulated in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a journalist should “take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.”