It isn’t journalism: NET25 airs brazen personal attack in the guise of a “report”

JEERS TO NET25 for airing a personal attack in the guise of a “news report” on Vice President Leni Robredo and her family, which among others, called the VP and her daughters Aika, Tricia, and Jillian ‘kulang sa pansin’ (attention seekers) for posting social media updates on their personal accounts. It aired on May 23 in the primetime news program Mata ng Agila (Eagle Eye).

With the headline “Action speaks louder than social media,” the atrocity is now inaccessible on NET25’s social media accounts. But concerned netizens took screenshots and video clips and uploaded these on their personal accounts, calling out the irresponsibility and abuse of the rights to free expression and press freedom of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC)-owned network.

The NET25 piece was nothing but baseless opinions brazenly presented as news. “Pawang celebrity wannabes ang tatlong anak na babae ni VP Leni Robredo na sina Aika, Tricia, at Jillian na saksakan ang sipag sa pag-angat ng imahe ng kanilang ina at ng kanilang sarili online,” he said in the start of his report.

(“VP Leni Robredo’s daughters Aika, Tricia, and Jillian seem to be celebrity wannabes who are viciously diligent in boosting the image of their mother and of themselves online.”)

The other sensationalized claims and unprofessional comments in the piece were that:

  • The Robredo family posted about flying economy class while supporters “boasted” about Jillian Robredo’s educational attainment;
  • The Robredo camp conducted a “smear campaign” against Ferdinand Marcos Jr. by inventing allegations that his camp was responsible for circulating online a fake sex video of Aika Robredo; 
  • Robredo’s daughters treat their mother as a “prophet or angel” because they post butterflies and rainbows that remind them of their father; and
  • In comparison to Robredo’s daughters, “silence” of Marcos Jr.’s sons on social media indicate their good breeding. 

The individual spewing these allegations concluded with “Angat buhay ba talaga ang layunin ng mga Robredo para sa bayan, o angat sarili?” (“Do the Robredos really aim to uplift the lives of the people in the country, or themselves?”). Ironically, NET25 prides itself as “matatag, matapang, matapat” in their closing tagline.

Danilo Arao, a journalism professor in the University of the Philippines Diliman called the  piece “neither news nor opinion reportage but a shameless hack job.” He added that NET25 as a member of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) may be liable for violating the KBP Broadcast Code, “particularly on responsible news reportage and commentary.” One of his posts urging journalism and communication students to check the Broadcast Code gained 766 shares on Facebook as of May 26. 

Article 1, Section 3 of the broadcast code clearly states that ‘news reports shall be fair, factual, and objective.’ Article 2 of Section 7 also reads that ‘personal bias or prejudice shall not be allowed to distort the facts.’ Basic journalism also requires citing sources and verification before airing or publishing news.

Barnaby Lo of CBS News also retweeted a screenshot of the report. He said “gusto niyo makita kung ano ang totoong hitsura ng biased na media? Eto. Lantaran.” (“Do you know what biased media really looks like? Here. Outright.”)

His post was retweeted more than 7,000 times as of May 26. 

The latest outrageous example of total bias was only one of several that the network has aired against Robredos and their supporters. NET 25 and its “reporters” have even resorted to calling Robredo’s supporters ‘pinklawan’ (pink+dilawan), a name concocted by avid supporters of Marcos Jr., “talunan” (loser), and “desperado” (desperate).

NET25’s website describes it as “a community and a resource — a center of values where its best practices can be explored and where vision and innovation are shared to build new opportunities that enrich life.” But when a network spews vicious propaganda against government officials and ordinary citizens, it is, to put it mildly, a huge disservice to the community it claims to serve. 

Propaganda disguised as news and hate speech have no place in professional journalism, especially at a time when the country has to contend with rampant mis- and dis-information and their devastating consequences on governance and society.