Baguio journalists urge youth to help fight disinformation
MANILA, Philippines – At the speed with which posts and articles can be shared on social media, Baguio journalists asked the youth to do their part in verifying information during the #MoveBaguio: Social Good in the Digital Age forum on Friday, March 8.
Around 300 students from different colleges in Baguio City attended the forum at Saint Louis University (SLU) to learn about the importance of fact-checking.
Mentioning a memorable example of disinformation at SLU, White & Blue Editor-in-Chief Diwa Donato shared how announcements of class suspensions from random sources have become a problem. It’s gotten so severe that people would even go so far as to edit photos of old memorandums to make them believable.
Class suspensions at SLU are only official if announced by the SLU president or the Dean of Student Affairs. Still, deliberate attempts to confuse students persist.
To fight disinformation in their university, Donato highlighted the importance of credibility and strong partnerships.
Being the only university-wide publication of SLU, the responsibility falls on White & Blue’s shoulders to be a trusted source and keep close communication with the administration to fact-check claims of class suspensions.
Beyond Baguio City, disinformation can also be found in other parts of Northern Luzon, even threatening the lives of people in faraway communities.
Among its other stories, Northern Dispatch has debunked a report of a fake mass surrender of New People’s Army members in Ilocos Sur. Upon investigation, Northern Dispatch found out that the supposed surrenderers were members of Lucbuban Farmers Association.
“That news puts their lives in danger, so fact matters. If you are a farmer...being labeled as an NPA, then you will be open target,” said Northern Dispatch Editor-in-Chief Kimberlie Quitasol.
Quitasol added that when claims without verification reach the public sphere first, it becomes difficult to challenge people’s perception, even when data show irregularities.
“Nauna na nabroadcast sa national at sa mas malalaking media outfits na sila ay surrenderees, tapos nasama na sila sa statistics ng government... By the end of 2015, sabi ng government na 4,000 na lang ang NPA. By the end of 2018, 11,000 'yung sumuko. So paano natin i-add up ang ganoon,” she said.
(It was broadcasted on national and big media outfits that they were surrenderees, and they were included in government statistics... By the end of 2015, the government said there were around 4,000 NPA members. By the end of 2018, there were 11,000 surrenderees.So how do those details add up?)
“Nauuna ang kasinungalingan, mas mahirap bawiin (When the lies come first, it’s harder to take them back),” Quitasol added.
What can people do to fight disinformation? Quitasol answered, “In the battle for truth, truth is your only weapon.”
She added that media can do their part by ensuring that the content they push in their platforms is truthful, verified, and factual.
“Fake news should not exist because news should not be fake,” she said.
Rappler Reporter Ralf Rivas stressed that everyone has a role to play in addressing disinformation, not just journalists. Aside from the reports that journalists make, people should also discern information they consume and be critical of politicians who opt out of public debates or who avoid questions about important issues.
“Another point that I want to raise is also look at what is not being seen in the media.... We can only access so much,” he said.
Quitasol explained that disinformation is an age-old tactic used to divide, confuse, and easily conquer people.
“Disinformation did not happen just today. It has been in the arsenal of rulers, especially of tyrants, way back in history,” she said.
“To label us simply dilawan, komunista (yellows, communist) is also a way to divide us. Unless we resist to be labeled in just one color or one faction, they will continue to lord over us. They confuse us, so that we don't know what to believe anymore,” Quitasol continued.
Veteran journalist Frank Cimatu added that the one good thing that came from the proliferation of fake news is how it triggered healthy skepticism among the people.
“The good thing about all this fake news proliferation, it brought out...sa mga non-journalist, 'yung journalist way of thinking, 'yung tinatawag namin healthy skepticism. 'Yung hindi mo pinapaniwalaan ang lahat ng nababasa mo, (It brought out...among non-journalists, the journalist way of thinking that we call healthy skepticism. That’s when you don’t believe everything that you read),” Cimatu said.
Quitasol posed a challenge to the youth to start addressing disinformation on social media.
“At this day and age, when everything is at the click of your finger, it's very fast. Pagtulungan natin to address it; ngayon na.... If this goes on, lalala siya. Pagdating 'nyo sa edad namin, mas mahirap na siya sugpuin (Let’s work together to address it now.... If this goes on, it’ll get worse. Once you reach our age, it’d be harder to beat),” she said.
Donato echoed the same sentiment, saying that the spread of fake news has become a threat to democracy.
“When we think about fake news, it does not just build or destroy politicians, but it will build or destroy our country, and, of course, our democracy,” she explained.
Cimatu shared that everyone should be responsible with the posts and articles that they share in their social media accounts because of their reach in your own circle of friends, which he likened to the reach of a community paper.
“You have maximum 5,000 friends in Facebook. That is the circulation of Baguio Chronicle. Each of you is a local community paper. Ang laking opportunity for you to bring out your voice, (This is a big opportunity for you to bring out your voice),” he said. – Rappler.com