MANILA, Philippines – Online attempts to downplay the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2019 mishaps are attacks on the press.
There were two stories about the SEA Games that dominated social media a week before it opened: "#SEAGamesFail" and "#SEAG2019NotAFailure." (LOOK: SEA Games 2019 mishaps likened to failed Fyre Festival)
The first trended after the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee's (Phisgoc) blunders came to light. (READ: What do we know about SEA Games 2019’s Phisgoc?)
The second echoed what the Phisgoc, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), and public figures associated with the games said to reduce public outcry: that these mishaps were all "normal" and the press should focus on more "positive" stories.
Soon, posts and memes pitting supposedly false reports against "real" ones made the rounds, painting the media and critics of the games as overly dramatic at best and intentional liars at worst. Some of these were even shared by accounts that carry the name of government offices, reinforcing their legitimacy.
The posts imply that the media did not report on what they saw as it happened and did not release corrections on their articles when they made mistakes, even though they did.
Below, we clear up some of the confusing memes that have attacked the media in the wake of SEA Games 2019 setbacks.
Biñan Football Stadium
The Inquirer.net website mistakenly said that UP Diliman Football Field was the Biñan Football Stadium in an article published on November 24.
Still, the Biñan City Information Office's post about the erratum caused an uproar among its 11,000 sharers and 1,400 comments. The comment with the most number of engagements said that the Inquirer mislabeled the photo on purpose and that a public apology wasn't enough to make up for their "irresponsible reporting."
On the 27th, the Biñan City Information Office page added fuel to the fire by sharing a blog post that was headlined "Biñan City mayor urged to file a case against Inquirer for spreading fake news." It was met with messages of support in the comments.
Two toilets, one cubicle
The weekend before the SEA Games 2019 opening ceremony, ABS-CBN reporter Angel Movido tweeted a video of two toilets in one bathroom cubicle in the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. In a later tweet, she said that measures were being done to make the toilets suitable for public use.
On November 27, the Philippine Sports Commission's (PSC) official Twitter account compared a screenshot of Movido's video of two toilets in one bathroom cubicle with what they said was a "fact:" a photo of two toilets separated by a wall.
This is misleading. Social media users have pointed out that the PSC's photo seemed dubious, as their photo did not have the drainage cover and concrete wall that were on the right side of the toilets in Movido's video. They also pointed out that in Movido's video, the toilet on the right was not wrapped in plastic, unlike in the photo that the PSC posted.
Here's a still from Movido's video. Bat may divider na sa kanan? Nasaan na rin yung drainage cover? pic.twitter.com/afFFI0bEnh — RoLand (@__hart__) November 27, 2019
Makeshift press con venue
Another meme circulating online compares a supposedly inaccurate image of a makeshift press conference with the official media center at the World Trade Center. (READ: Media center, stadium still unfinished as SEA Games 2019 football begins)
Both press conference venues are real.
Even though the SEA Games' official media center is in the World Trade Center in Pasay City, there are other 44 other venues for the games from which journalists must report from.
The makeshift press conference in the meme really happened, but not in Pasay City. It was taken on November 25, when the unfinished squash venue inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila was used as a working area for journalists covering the advance football games.
Sleeping on the floor
According to social media posts, the photos of the Cambodia football team lying on the floor of Century Park Hotel Manila were inaccurate, based on the hotel's official statement regarding the situation.
Contrary to what these posts implied though, the hotel did not deny the athletes' situation but instead provided an explanation for why it happened.
The Cambodia football team's rooms weren't ready when they arrived, prompting them to wait almost half a day in Century Park's conference rooms.
According to Century Park, they were informed of the team's arrival only the night before, but couldn't give them rooms due to full occupancy, hence they had to wait in conference rooms.
The hotel also explained that they offered the players more chairs, but they declined, preferring the floors so they could lie down to rest.
Kikiam or chicken sausage?
There was an outcry online, too, when the Philippine women's football team coach Let Dimzon said at a press conference on November 25 that her team was served kikiam, eggs, and rice for breakfast.
Two days later, Whitewoods Leisure and Convention, the hotel accommodating the Philippine women's football team, explained that Dimzon was not present at the hotel's breakfast buffet and assumed that the food she was served in a plastic container was their full offering.
The news media, contrary to what was implied online, reported on both Dimzon's comment and the hotel's response.
Did #SEAG2019NotAFailure and the resulting attacks on the press trend on their own or did they get help from online disinformation networks? In our next story, Rappler will look into how the conversation unfolded and how coordinated efforts managed the apparent public relations crisis. – Rappler.com