This is all very simple, really. The Philippine News Agency (PNA) has made enough mistakes, has been in the news often enough for being nothing more than a laughable excuse for a newswire service, and ultimately responsibility falls on Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
After all, I have personally heard him talking about how much he idolizes China’s Xin Hua News Agency, and how he would like to emulate its technology, its offices across the world, its professionalism. The fundamental problem with this of course is that Xin Hua is a state news agency in a country with censorship, where there is no freedom of the press, or of speech. And unless that’s what Andanar hopes for the Philippines, there is absolutely no reason to even think of emulating Xin Hua.
But PNA’s foreign news section is filled with news taken from Xin Hua, and that can only fall on Andanar’s shoulders. Why are you even thinking this news service to be credible source of news about China, and about the world?
Things get even worse when one considers PNA’s use of the website Sputnik News, a Russian “news agency” that is considered as part of the Kremlin’s project of “Russian disinformation” to “undermine official events.” Technically, a site that’s “used to spread propaganda and misinformation.” Even when it was launched in 2014, it was already established as a “result of a consolidation of state power over Russian media,” and just this year the site was accused of “distributing misinformation as part of the Kremlin propaganda machine.”
It is beyond me why Andanar would even think it acceptable to be sourcing all of the PNA’s foreign news from a website like Sputnik. Unless of course the point is this: he agrees with fake and skewed news, he believes in spewing only propaganda, and the task is information control. Both his beloved Xin Hua, and Sputnik, are about all three. (Once Andanar wanted to do online forensics on a yahoogroup’s messages that was blown out of proportion by Duterte’s own social media army. Maybe he does like fake news.)
Here’s the thing: there is no controlling information in a democratic country like the Philippines, that gives the people the right to speak, to question, to criticize what government is doing, and which has freedom of the press, something that countless Filipino have lived and died for, and which by the way Andanar himself has benefited from as a former member of the media.
But Andanar seems to have put his media past behind him, because there has been no indication that he even respects the media — both the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) and the media in general — given all that he has done the past year. He did insinuate after all that the Senate press could be paid, and in January this year paralleled mainstream media with “online trolls”:
Even though we are battered in the mainstream media, bashed by trolls, nobody believes them. 80 percent of our population support the president. <…> For those trolls who are out to destroy our government, you all go to hell.
He recently issued Department Order 15, which pretty much parallels the MPC with every Juan and Juana who has a social media account, posts daily opinions on nation, and has 5,000 followers. He has yet to realize that giving that kind of access to people who have no one to answer to, who have no guidelines or ethics to follow, is like opening Duterte and the PCOO up to prying eyes and voices they cannot control. This can (and will!) go in the opposite direction — not at all an “alternative coverage” to media, just more people proving media correct about how terrible things are from the inside.
Speaking of “from the inside,” it seems Andanar thinks someone’s sabotaging the PNA from within given the past week’s mishaps. And because Andanar can only crack under pressure, what he’s done is reveal that he sees his media workers in PNA as nothing more than soldiers or policemen, who are under his service, and must be disciplined as such:
We all know of course that this is PNP Chief Bato dela Rosa’s and Duterte’s solution to rogue cops. Send them to Basilan, (recently, to Marawi), to teach them a lesson. But pray tell why would media workers of PNA deserve the same kind of treatment? Shouldn’t they just be fired if they are found guilty of doing this on purpose, or if they are found to be incompetent?
While we’re at it: how many are they in the PNA office, and how much are they getting paid? I imagine that these are overworked and underpaid media workers and writers. Does Andanar really want us to start talking about the low wages of Malacañang’s own workers given his and his USec’s salaries?
Ah, but apparently Andanar ain’t going to listen anymore. He said about backlash over PNA’s mistakes:
“Tuloy-tuloy lang nila ang bashing. ‘Di naman namin binabasa. We are just here to serve the president, residents and God <…> Ang PNA po ngayon binabasa na, umasenso na siya kahit papaano pero mayroon lang po talaga na marunong pero ‘di committed.”
A communication secretary who does not read criticism, is a government official who thinks he can do nothing wrong, that he is beyond question, and is absolutely infallible.
This kind of arrogance from Andanar is astounding. I’m pretty sure there’s nowhere to go now but down. ***
Tagged: #DutertesMen, Andanar, censorship, China, Duterte, Malacañang Press Corps, Martin Andanar, PCOO, Philippines News Agency, Presidential Communications Operations Office, Russia, Sputnik News Agency, State Media, Xin Hua