Photojournalist Jes Aznar was accused by Rey Joseph Nieto, also known as Thinking Pinoy, of posting live updates of the military operations in Marawi City last May. However, Vera Files fact-checking showed that Aznar did not post the video live.
On June 16, Thinking Pinoy wrote: “NYtimes/Inq photographer Jes Aznar posts live updates from Marawi, revealing the positions of government snipers to any terrorist with a Smartphone.”
This is the Instagram video in question.
Aznar responded to Thinking Pinoy’s claim on June 17, disputing the blogger’s “vile and malicious post” that his video was posted live. He added that logically, putting the soldiers’ lives in danger would put him in danger, too.
“It has come to my attention that there’s this certain RJ Nieto, who is behind the FB page ThinkingPinoy, that is spreading a vile and malicious post against me. The post is a screen grab of my Instagram post in Marawi taken more than three weeks ago, then claiming it as a live feed of a military maneuver. Mr Nieto, while inside the comfort of his home, did not think about looking at the dates of the post but instead maliciously claiming it as happening live,” he said.
“The scene depicts soldiers exiting from a position which we were holed in after taking enemy sniper fire for hours. Thus, the troops were not there anymore when the post was made. If one would think logically, putting the soldier’s life in danger in this situation would definitely put me in harm’s way as well,” Aznar wrote.
He also clarified that unlike Thinking Pinoy’s claim, he is not working for the Inquirer and is not employed by the New York Times.
TP shot back at Aznar and expressed how much he did not believe Aznar’s defense that it was a late post given the Instagram video’s May 25 time stamp.
“Late post daw pero May 25 ang time stamp? Tapos, Sasabihin mong “In the middle of fighting” tapos hindi live post?” TP wrote.
He also showed Aznar’s original caption of the video before the photojournalist added “NOT A LIVE FEED #latepost” to it.
On June 18, Thinking Pinoy followed up his post about Aznar, urging the photojournalist to “get out of Mindanao for (his) own good.” He also described Aznar as “the guy who posted on Instagram on May 25 a freshly filmed video of government snipers in the middle of an encounter in the #MarawiClash.”
Unlike his first claim about Aznar’s video being a “live” update from Marawi, TP then described it as a “freshly filmed video.”
Thinking Pinoy emphasized that the video was posted on the same day on May 25, not “three weeks old,” as per Aznar’s claim in his June 17 post.
However, we think TP was confused with the “three weeks old” timeframe that Aznar gave. His confusion about this timeframe was made even more apparent when he posted a screenshot of another photojournalist’s Facebook post of a video similar to Aznar on June 20. Aznar was even tagged in it.
TP simply captioned it, “Three weeks old.”
But we think TP might have simply been confused how Aznar described his Instagram video that TP questioned in his June 16 post. The May 25 video Aznar took and posted to IG was indeed around “three weeks old” from June 17, 24 days, when Aznar took to Facebook to defend himself against TP’s accusation.
It seemed like some of those who commented on TP’s “three weeks old” post were also confused by the timeframe.
On June 20, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned TP for “endangering” Aznar’s life.
“We condemn Thinking Pinoy and Mr. Nieto for endangering a journalist, more so on unfounded reasons. We likewise condemn those who threaten our colleague who was simply doing his job,” NUJP said in a statement.
“Aznar has repeatedly clarified he posted the photo in question when they were already out of the area, thus he could not have endangered the soldiers at that time,” it said. “He also said that he only had good intentions in posting the photo on his Facebook social media account, such as showing the public how active the government troops were in quelling the Maute and Abu Sayyaf.”
GMA News Online reported TP’s email to them about how he said his claim against Aznar was based on the Instagram video’s May 25 timestamp. He added that the video “gave terrorists insights on AFP’s entry points.”
TP also said that he welcomed Aznar’s threat of a lawsuit. He also emphasized the AFP’s earlier request to the public to stop from posting on social media information that may worsen the Marawi conflict.
“Aznar’s post exacerbated the situation as it limited AFP’s tactical options vis-a-vis its Marawi operations,” TP said.
In his own blog, TP answered NUJP’s statement, saying that what Aznar did was put the soldiers at risk for posting a video that was “less than five hours old.”
“Aznar’s controversial video was posted at 6:13 AM UTC, which translates to 2:13 PM Manila. Judging by the amount of sunlight in the video, along with the length of the shadows outside the structure, the photo must have been taken around noon of that day, i.e. between 9:00 AM and 2:13 PM,” TP wrote.
“In short, Aznar posted that video that was less than five hours old when it was uploaded. It was just the second day of fighting, and enemies are all over the place, so that Armed Forces personnel could not have gotten too far from where the video was taken,” TP said.
TP was right. Based on this preview as the IG video was posted on Facebook, it was indeed uploaded at 6:16 AM UTC.
But with Vera Files fact-checking, the point of contention was TP’s June 16 post, when he accused Aznar of posting “live updates from Marawi.”
Vera Files interviewed Prof. Al Tompkins, a senior faculty of The Poynter Institute, who defined “live” as something that is actually happening right now.
Tompkins said, “If it is recorded, it is not live.”
Vera Files then posted the file information of Aznar’s video that the photojournalist sent to the media company and it showed that the video was taken with an iPhone and uploaded to an Apple computer.
Based on the file information, the video was created on May 25, 2017 at 1:19 pm. And by “created,” it meant the time when the video was transferred or saved on the computer.
Aznar told Vera Files that the video was taken at 1pm.
Vera Files noted the embed code of the Instagram video to show the exact time it was posted on Instagram.
“Looking at the embed code of the 17-second video uploaded on Aznar’s Instagram, the time stamp reflected “2017-05-25T06:13:18+00:00″>May 24, 2017 at 11:13pm PDT.” It means the video was uploaded at 2:13 p.m., Philippine time on May 25, 2017,” Vera Files wrote.
So, was Aznar posting “live updates” in Marawi City when he uploaded his video on Instagram on May 25, as per Thinking Pinoy’s June 16 accusation? Vera Files’ fact-checking said he didn’t. They wrote, “The video was uploaded on the internet 73 minutes after it was taken.”