KBP reprimands RJ Nieto for 'personal attack' vs Rappler reporter

MANILA, Philippines – Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) reprimanded pro-Duterte blogger RJ Nieto, also known as Thinking Pinoy, for making a personal attack against Rappler reporter Pia Ranada during a radio program on DWIZ.

A letter containing the decision, dated May 31, 2018, was received by Ranada on Wednesday, August 22.

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KBP, according to the letter, found Nieto guilty of violating the Broadcast Code's Article 4, Section 1 which says, "Personal attacks, that is, attacks on the honesty, integrity or personal qualities of an identified person, institution or group, on matters that have no bearing on the public interest are prohibited."

KBP wrote: "Accordingly, at it appearing that this is respondent Nieto's first recorded offense, he is hereby REPRIMANDED and warned to be henceforth more circumspect in his jokes and on-air language."

It also called out Aliw Broadcasting Corporation, the company which runs DWIZ, for allowing Nieto to go on air even if he lacks KBP accreditation.

The Broadcast Code prohibits KBP member stations like DWIZ from letting "any person to go on the air without the requisite accreditation except in instances provided in the rules of accreditation."

KBP wants Aliw Broadcasting to explain why it should not be held liable for this apparent violation, issuing a show cause order against the company.

Nieto can still appeal the reprimand by September 3, or 10 working days after August 16, the date he received the letter, according to KBP performance officer Virginia Velasco who spoke with Rappler on the phone on Thursday, August 23.

As of Thursday morning, Nieto has yet to appeal the decision, said Velasco.

As to the show cause order against Aliw Broadcasting, the company must provide its explanation on or before August 31.

If the company is unable to give a good reason why Nieto was allowed to go on air, Nieto could be fined P10,000 to P15,000 and/or be reprimanded, according to the penalties in the Broadcast Code for violations in the "G" or grave category. Velasco said this is the category that covers the violation.

DWIZ, meanwhile, would pay P20,000 to P30,000 and/or face censure. 

What prompted the complaint? The KBP decision is the result of a complaint filed by Ranada with the organization on November 3, 2017 or 9 months ago.

Ranada accused Nieto of violating KBP standards when he asked Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a November 3, 2017 DWIZ show to throw "hollow blocks" at her.

Nieto had been interviewing Roque, along with DWIZ radio show hosts Jojo Robles and Conrad Banal.

Nieto recalled Roque's threat to throw "hollow blocks" at critics of the President.

NIETO: Pero sir kahit isang hollow block magbalibag naman kayo sir para ano lang pakagat lang ganoon (laughs).

ROQUE: Pero dapat pipiliin din ang target.

NIETO: Kasi ako po, si Pia na lang po. Si Pia Ranada sir.

(Nieto: But sir, even one hollow block, just a sample.

Roque: But we must choose the target.

Nieto: For me, it should be Pia, Pia Ranada, sir.)

On December 11, 2017, or a month after Ranada's complaint, Nieto responded, telling KBP that his remarks were not personal attacks as he "did not criticize (Ranada) at all, nor make any references as to her character or person, or any of her qualities."

He also claimed he merely "continued Mr Roque's figure of speech" and that the interview was conducted in a "humorous manner" and not meant to be threatening.

KBP, however, disputed this, saying Ranada was singled out unnecessarily.

"Assuming, as respondent Nieto claims, that his remarks were made in jest and meant simply to continue the figure of speech (allegory or idiomatic expression) that Mr Roque started, there was no need for respondent to mention the name of the complainant and single her out among all other journalists," wrote KBP.

KBP said it was clear that Nieto had made a "suggestion that the hollow blocks to be thrown be directed to complainant Ranada" and that this "has no relevance to the topic of discussion, which was the appointment of Mr Harry Roque as presidential spokesperson."

"It therefore appears that while it may have been done in jest, respondent Nieto made a personal attack against complainant Ranada when the former made his comment to direct the hollow blocks against the latter," said KBP.

Since Nieto admitted he made his remarks so that Roque would defend Duterte from supposed criticisms by Ranada and Rappler, "respondent admitted to attacking complainant Ranada by alluding to the unjust criticisms that complainant Ranada (and Rappler) make against President Duterte."

KBP, however, agreed with Nieto that his words were not tantamount to presenting crime or violence as attractive, beyond retribution, correction, or reform and were not vulgar or indecent since it is "clear" that the remarks "should not be taken literally" by the listeners of the program. 

As of Thursday, Nieto continues to co-host DWIZ's morning show Karambola. – Rappler.com