LIKE the New York Times and other media organizations before it, the usually reliable Reuters international news agency appears to have been hooked by the propaganda line of the political opposition which seeks to bring down the government of President Rodrigo Duterte by discrediting its ongoing war on illegal drugs.
It levels charges that have already been made in sensational fashion by others. It has no new story to tell, let alone an authentic one. Although Reuters bills its piece as a special report; it is, in fact, a report on a report by someone anonymous.
Founded in 1851 and headquartered in London, Reuters is one of the three most prestigious news agencies in the world, together with the US-based Associated Press and the Paris-based Agence France Presse. With a staff of 2,500 journalists and 600 photojournalists working in about 200 locations worldwide, the agency has earned a reputation for assuring reliability, accuracy and speed in reporting international news and developments.
Thus, we in the Times have found it surprising, even incredible, to find Reuters presenting a special report on the drug war in the Philippines, but without making any effort to verify its serious allegations or to produce any evidence.
Reuters released its report on Tuesday, April 18, along with this headline: “Special Report: Police describe kill rewards, staged crime scenes in Duterte’s drug war.”
Basing its report entirely on the claims and allegations of two supposed police insiders, Reuters leveled highly serious allegations against the Philippine government and the national police. The allegations are so provocative and are offered with no substantiation, we wonder why there is controversy and so much concern over it.
Summarizing the allegations would be tantamount to dignifying them. We believe that the task of supporting this story should squarely lie in the hands of Reuters, its informers, and the political opposition, which evidently set up the connections that led to the report.
To charge that the Philippine police are committing the drug killings themselves, and that they are doing it for money, is very serious, indeed. This is why it must be substantiated or retracted. To pretend that it is all for a good cause is hypocritical, and contrary to the canons of good journalism as we know it.
Reuters says that one of its two informants, a police intelligence officer. has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organize opposition to President Duterte’s campaign. It cited a title for the report (“The State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines”), but it kept the author anonymous.
The agency also reported that the document has been shared with leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and with the government-funded Commission on Human Rights.
If the Reuters report has accomplished anything at all, it is possibly to confirm that the existence of an oust- Duterte in the country. It is to betray the involvement of certain groups (the Catholic Church and the Commission on Human Rights, among others) in certain activities.
Significantly, Reuters declared that it could not confirm the report’s accusations against individuals. Consequently, the agency refrained from publishing the full document. It published only the first page.
We think publishing the special report without confirmation is irresponsible. For Philippine media to publish or broadcast the report is to lend credence to a barefaced assault on our government and our police forces. This is a lie until proven otherwise.
When Senator Panfilo Lacson dismisses it as mere “gossip,” he is correct.