Journalists are required to report, not imagine, as Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella has suggested, said a veteran journalist.
“News people are not in the business of imagining. They’re in the business of reporting,” said Vergel Santos on Wednesday, October 5.
Santos is the chairman of the Center of Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) Board of Trustees.
His statement is in response to Abella telling the media earlier that they should “use creative imagination” when reporting President Rodrigo Duterte’s statements.
“Let us try to use our creative imagination. H’wag tayo masyadong literal,” Abella said, when asked about Duterte saying he might eventually break up ties with the United States.
Duterte has been making several controversial remarks, which have been covered by both local and international media.
Abella said that by now, the media should have been familiar with Duterte’s style when it comes to making outlandish remarks, hence such remarks should not be taken literally.
However, Santos said that the fault lies in the media’s reporting or understanding of Duterte’s statements, but in Duterte’s men.
“I think the problem lies with the other side… The president’s own people don’t seem to understand him,” Santos said.
Duterte’s communications team has previously been told to speak in one voice and to anticipate the issues that will be thrown the President’s way.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has released a memorandum stopping other Cabinet members from speaking in behalf of Duterte, especially in sensitive issues. This came after some of the Cabinet members contradicted Duterte’s own statements.
Santos said that Duterte’s remarks can often be clearly misunderstood, adding that journalists, some of whom have been threatened online, only do their job in reporting whatever the President says.
“The President cannot help himself. He doesn’t seem to be open to any coaching or counseling or whatever,” Santos noted.
“It is not for us to help them. It is for them to help themselves. The relationship between the media and the president is not like that. Our business is to report the president – what he does and what he says,” Santos added.
He said that in reporting, the media has to put Duterte’s statements “in context and perspective.”