Ukraine crisis dominates front pages; Online media fact-check and highlight issues

2nd report on the print and online media coverage of Elections 2022


METHODOLOGY: CMFR reviewed the coverage of leading Manila broadsheets (Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, and Manila Bulletin), three other selected broadsheets (The Daily Tribune, The Manila Times, and The Manila Standard) and their online counterparts as well as independent online media Rappler and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism from February 21 to March 6, 2022. The reporting by alternative online news sites Altermidya, Bulatlat, and Mindanews was also reviewed; they highlighted other issues that the mainstream media missed. 

Also See: “2nd Report on the TV Coverage of the Elections 2022


FROM FEBRUARY 23 until March 4, the crisis in Ukraine dominated the front pages of newspapers with banner stories on the Russian invasion and Ukraine’s resistance, as well as reports on the war’s impact around the world, including the  hike in the prices of petroleum products and other commodities. 

Only a few reports related to the campaign for the May elections gained prime space with Ukraine during the February 21 to March 6 period. Among them were:

  • Results and issues raised in the presidential and vice-presidential debates organized by CNN Philippines, these included the candidates’ take on corruption, pandemic response, infrastructure, agriculture, and foreign relations;
  • Reports on the upcoming debate organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which also included the indecision of Marcos Jr. about his attending the event;
  • President Duterte’s non-endorsement of a presidential candidate; and,
  • Some broadsheets’ use of candidate’s campaign news as the lead story

Similar to Tribune’s reportage in the last two weeks, the Manila Times continued to track Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s and Sara Duterte’s (UniTeam) campaign on their front pages.

Election-related reports on frontpages of the the Manila Times, February 21 to March 6, 2022.

Other national stories given front page treatment were the shift to Alert Level 1 in the National Capital Region (NCR), the lower number of COVID cases, and the suspension of e-sabong operations. 

Inside pages

Reports on more prominent candidates, their activities and what they had to say on issues were relegated to the inside pages, together with endorsements from local officials, churches, and organized groups that announced their preferences for certain candidates. 

On February 25, the 36th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, some news accounts featured what the candidates had to say about it. 

First-hand accounts by Martial Law survivors, personal recollections of the period and discussion of the meaning of another Marcos’ running for president were published in OpEd sections.

Reports also covered groups asking Comelec for a meeting to discuss the appointment of new Commissioners, and to clarify its Oplan Baklas rules.

Online media led by doing more 

Online media went beyond mere reporting on the basics of the campaign. CMFR welcomes the efforts of some online news and alternative digital news providers which broke away from the standard news formula of  reporting who did what, when and where.

They fact-checked claims candidates made during the CNN and SMNI debates that went viral, with the alternative media discussing what candidates had to say on a range of under-reported issues and problems.  

Fact-checking false claims and erroneous viral messages

  • After the SMNI Senatorial debate last March 2 and 3, Philstar.com and Rappler did more than quote the heated exchange among the candidates on the abuses during Martial Law. These fact-checked the claims of suspended lawyer Larry Gadon and former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. They also corrected other errors during the debate and the viral social media posts which incorrectly interpreted what candidates really said. 
  • A member of #FactsFirstPH coalition, Altermidya published at least three fact checks on misleading or fake viral posts in social media about Leni Robredo, Kabataan Partylist, and a muslim party-list nominee, among others.

Highlighting under-reported issues

  • Bulatlat followed up on what candidates had to say about crucial issues, including the Anti-Terror Law and the bloody drug war. (See: “What’s at stake: Bulatlat reminds voters of candidates’ stand on anti-terror law“)
  • Bulatlat also published an explainer with an infographic to show the extent of  the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth, assessing how much the wealth could have benefitted those in need with basic services, food and water, subsidies, allowances , higher pay and benefits for teachers and health workers, and assistance to farmers. 
  • MindaNews reported on the efforts by a local environmental group in Davao City to educate voters on candidates’ plans for climate-change action. 
  • Altermidya in an episode of their “ALAB Analysis” series, “Boto ng Babae”, featured in-depth and “masa on the street interviews” to get to the heart of the issue of women’s voting concerns, in observance of March as Women’s month.  

Highlighting relevant studies

  • Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Philstar.com both published election watchdog Kontra Daya’s findings that “at least 120 of 177 party-list groups are identified with political clans and big businesses, have incumbent local officials, connections with the government and military, unknown or unclear advocacies and representations, and pending court cases and criminal charges.”

Conclusion

During the period reviewed, print media continued with their underwhelming performance which CMFR noted in the first two weeks of the campaign period. More journalists in the mainstream should explore new ways of presenting what citizens’ need to know. As of press time, online media have shown the way.