Faking the imagery of reality – who should be responsible?

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AL S. VITANGCOL III

IT seems that the Marawi City siege has brought out the best—and the worst—in journalists and bloggers monitoring and reporting the day-to-day events in thE area. As of this writing, government forces are still battling the Maute group, which tried to take control of the city earlier this week.

The website of a broadsheet newspaper posted photos allegedly showing the situation in Marawi City after members of the Maute group attacked the city. A netizen pointed out that the photos were taken from the Cotabato bombing a few years back. This is faking the imagery of a reality. The situation is real, but the photos were not.

Three days later, state-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) ran a report about urban warfare as a challenge for THE soldiers in Marawi and included a photo of a soldier on patrol. It turned out that the photo had been cropped from a picture from the Vietnam war. Once more, this is faking the imagery of a reality. The situation is real, but the photo was not.

Thereafter, a popular blogger requested for prayers for the Filipino soldiers and shared a photo of soldiers kneeling in prayer. Yet again, a netizen exposed the photo as that of police in Honduras praying for God’s help. Again, this is faking the imagery of a reality. The situation is real, but the photo was not.


On May 30, the PNA issued a statement acknowledging their error and considered it as a lapse of judgment on their part.

The PNA said: “We regret that these mistakes have cast doubt on our integrity as a news agency. Rest assured we have dealt with our erring personnel and that we are reviewing our procedures on reportage as we continue to uphold our commitment to deliver accurate and balanced news reports to the Filipino people and the world.”
Subsequent media reports stated that the erring personnel were suspended. Fair enough.

The PNA, the day after, reported that “Communications Secretary Martin Andanar has ordered the restructuring of manpower assignments within the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO)”. Likewise, “Andanar ordered the abolition of the Strategic Communications Office (StratComm)” through Office Order 26 signed by Andanar on May 30 and effective immediately.

Does this have something to do with the series of “lapses of judgment” committed by its agencies and officials? This, we do not know.

At any rate, whenever a writer includes an idea, a data, a phrase, or a photograph—which are all uncited—then it is presumed to be the writer’s own. Without any attribution as to the source, or the author of the material, it leaves readers with the impression that everything, including the photos, are the writer’s own.

According to Writing with Sources by Gordon Harvey, plagiarism can be committed in different modes.
Moreover, these forms of plagiarism can exist simultaneously in one and the same passage. I would not belabor the point with a discussion of plagiarism and its different forms.

However, my insight tells me that the practice of using uncited materials (even if it is just a photo), is considered patchwork plagiarism.

Sometimes, a writer has to omit citations for the sake of readability. However, this must be stated in clear terms so that misunderstanding (or even charges of plagiarism) can be avoided.

Let us assume that the plagiarism committed is unintentional due to the writer’s ignorance of the importance of citing material sources. Can this pass muster with the Journalist’s Code of Ethics? I don’t think so.

The Journalist’s Code of Ethics (JCE) was crafted in 1998 through the combined efforts of the National Press Club, Philippine Press Institute, Philippine Movement for Press Freedom (PMPF), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Kapisanan ng mga Manggagawa sa Media sa Pilipinas, Press Foundation of Asia, and Photojournalists Guild of the Philippines, among others.

Note the presence of the Photojournalists Guild of the Philippines, which likewise approved the said JCE. This simply means that the use of photographs and any imagery should comply with the ethical provisions of the code.

It contains the requirement, “I shall resort only to fair and honest methods in my effort to obtain news, photographs and/or documents.” Indeed, obtaining photographs is subject to the JCE, which bloggers may or may not know.

I did some online research to see the prevailing code of ethics of other nations. There were a lot. And I came across the Journalist’s Creed written by Walter Williams in 1914. It states in part, “I believe in the profession of journalism. I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust.”

Indeed, it still should be a public trust, no more no less.

I also found out that the PCOO has a code of ethics for media. Hence, I accessed the site http://pcoo.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/buk1_code_of_ethics_for_media.pdf to download the file.
Well, it displayed the message—Failed to load PDF file. Corrupted media.

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1 Comment

  1. a popular blogger requested for prayers for the Filipino soldiers and shared a photo of soldiers kneeling in prayer. Yet again, a netizen exposed the photo as that of police in Honduras praying for God’s help.
    ——————————————————

    That is the result of making a porn star part of the communication team of the government.
    Making up news instead of reporting it.

    Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson explanation

    “I did not say that picture was taken from Marawi. It’s a symbol of the Army praying”
    “Common sense that it’s a symbolism”

    Fake news

    Awesome