[Assignment Number 7 | 5th Week] News Media Issue– BONUS

Broadcast Media Business of the Romualdezes in Tacloban City

Other than ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Tacloban, Tacloban City has only one local television station— PRtv 12. From an informant who refused to be named, PRtv 12 was established sometime in 1982 through the efforts of Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, Imelda Marcos’ brother. The establishment of PRtv 12 was then an achievement for the entire Eastern Visayas Region. With the help of the then Office of Media Affairs (OMA) Region VIII and known personalities from PTV 4 (same informant), PRtv 12 trained and employed local broadcast media practitioners from announcers, producers, to cameramen. As two other informants said, it was established by the government to be pro-government, especially during the Marcos era. 

After the EDSA revolt in 1986, the station being a known asset of the Romualdezes, was confiscated by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). After more than 2 decades, it went back on air in 2011 under the management of Philippine Collective Media Corporation (PCMC). PCMC was granted congressional franchise to operate broadcast media business in 2009

PRtv 12 is a household name for local news delivered in the Waray language. It also hosts magazine programs, although very minimal. What is interesting about PRtv 12 is its ownership issue that is also reflected in its programming. It is a common knowledge that the letters "PR" stands for the initials of [Benjamin] Philip Romualdez (this claim has been validated by several authorities in the field of political science and the academe who have been following local politics in the region). Benjamin Philip Romualdez is a son of the late Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez. He also served as Vice-Chairman of Benguet Corporation (where the Romualdezes are one of the main owners) and is now the chairman of Manila Standard, an online news outlet acquired by the Romualdezes from Enrique Razon last 2010. Other locals refer to PRtv 12 as “Pamilya Romualdez” TV. 

Although PCMC’s General Information Sheet obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does not mention any Romualdez in the list of stockholders, it should be noted that a couple of them can be closely identified with the family. In fact, one is the current head of the Remedious Trinidad Romualdez (RTR) hospital, another Romualdez-owned business. 

More than the station’s ownership issue, which its station manager and some staff seem to dismiss when that matter is asked, analysis of PRtv 12’s news programs reveal that it really is a mouthpiece of the Romualdezes. From projects, praises, and defences, PRtv 12 lifts the image of the family to something truthful and desirable. The station and its announcers are even hell-bent in defending the Duterte administration— a known ally of the Romualdezes— who are also politically intimate with the Marcoses. 

Assignment Number 5| Fact-checking News Organization/ News Site

Sputnik News Agency

Sputnik is a news agency based in Russia with regional offices in US, UK, China, Germany, Egypt, and France. Sputnik also has a radio counterpart. According to Sputnik International's website profile, it is operated by Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), a Russian media group that replaced RIA Novosti, which was scrapped by Putin in 2013. Interestingly, the website does not declare anything about the nature of its ownership-- state-owned, reports NewsGuard.

NewsGuard is composed of journalists who act as analysts in evaluating news sites in terms of their reliability. Their evaluation comes in the form of a "Nutrition Label" that also tags whether a news outlet is reliable or not. NewsGuard labeled Sputnik as unreliable as shown in the following assessment:
NewsGuard also cites that Sputnik has been publishing stories attacking state enemies of the Russian government. The news agency also serves as one of the country's defenses in explaining controversies to the public and the rest of the world. 
Direct quotation from NewsGuard’s evaluation of Sputnik.
Sputnik News Agency has also been met with criticisms by Media Bias/Fact-Check (MBFC) News, "an independent online media outlet" that checks media biases of online news sites. MBFC ranks Sputnik news on the far right of the media bias spectrum (see photo below). MBFC also highlights the questionable sources and propagandistic nature of Sputnik. 
Among the dubious and fake articles published by Sputnik are the following:
The article has a number of unnamed sources claiming unverified “sightings” of the said activity. The same observation has been noted by NewsGuard and Polygraph.info.
As reported and corrected by Polygraph.info, Nevada Governor did not declare a state of emergency during that period due to shortage of marijuana supply, contrary to this news article by Sputnik. The declaration was of mere statement of emergency in terms of the urgent need to amend licensing regulations for the selling and production of the said substance.
On January 21, 2019, Sputnik published yet another fake news by discounting findings of its involvement in the MH17 Boeing crash that killed 298 people on board on May 2014. This denial was made despite the strong evidence of their involvement, as reported by various news organizations such as The Guardian and BBC News. The same fake news article was immediately tagged by StopFake.org.

Assignment Number 4| Fake news/ Fact-checking

Title: Feds let 30,558 illegal criminals go free "They were the worst of the worst law breakers"
Date: December 2018
Publisher: Now8News
Link: http://now8news.com/illegal-criminals-go-free/
A news article in now8news.com heads: Feds Let 30,558 Illegal Criminals Go Free “They Were The Worst Of The Worst Law Breakers”. The article tells that 30,000+ "criminal illegal immigrants" were released by federal authorities on December 23, 2018. Upon cross-checking the facts claimed and direct statements quoted by Now8News, the article is a fake news. An identical article (from title to punctuation and picture) also appears in another site, Eyewitness News 4.

The article cites Arizona Sheriff Paul Babue when he said that President Trump, in effect, has "led the largest prison breaks in the history of our country [America]". The article further stresses how dangerous the move was, despite its legal basis. 

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has no record of such release for the fiscal year 2018 report. The unavailability of the said information makes sense because the release of 30,558 immigrants with criminal records happened in 2014, reported The Washington Times and CNS News.

Furthermore, Paul Babeu officially ended his term as Arizona Sheriff in 2017. Him commenting as "Arizona Sheriff" about the release of 30,000+ illegal aliens, as said in the article, is clearly unlikely.

It should also be noted that the president of the United States of America during the year 2014 was still Barack Obama, not Donald Trump. That being so, an almost identical article (published by Daily Buzz Live in 2016) mentioning Obama instead of Trump, dated 2016 instead of 2018, is also available online. This makes the article in Now8News and Eyewitness News 4 even more dubious.

The release of 30,558 criminal aliens has appeared in 3 years (2014, 2016, and 2018) in several online platforms. Apparently, fake article published by Now8News, Eyewitness News 4, and Daily Buzz Live is a misleadingly edited version of an original news published by NewsMax on March 18, 2015.

The original article indeed cites Babeu's doubts on the decision of the Obama administration. "Babeu told Newsmax that all of these changes 'have lethal consequences for innocent American citizens who become victims'." (Beamon, 2015).

The sufficiently lenghty article by NewsMax confirms that the release of 30,558 illegal immigrants with criminal records happened in 2014.

Assignment Number 3 | Fake News/ Fact-checking

Title: In Ghana you must dress like your wedding day to get divorced
Date: December 9, 2018
Publisher: ThereIsNews.com
Link: https://thereisnews.com/in-ghana-you-must-to-dress-like-your-wedding-day-to-get-divorced/

Several Facebook Pages have shared the article. Psychedelic Adventure alone has reached up to 11,000+ shares

In three (3) paragraphs, the original article in thereisnews.com tells that a married couple in Ghana can only get a divorce if they appear in court dressed the same way as when they were married. The article further describes the activity as: "This condition creates very humorous situations in the so-called “Divorce Rooms”, where Ghanaians must go if they want to end their marriage." 

The article also cites the country Togo as requiring the approval of mother-in-law before a divorce gets legally approved. Because of this requirement, the article reports that Togo has a 0% divorce rate as of the moment of posting.

Inasmuch as the article is no doubt funny, it is FAKE. First, Ghana and Togo are West African countries, they do not belong with the countries in Southeast Africa. 

Second, a quick search on tineye (a reverse image search engine) revealed that the image first appeared in boreme.com on September 23, 2009, and consequently appeared in several other domains with no words inscribed on the wall.

TinEye search of the image attached in the article
Fake news stories checker, Lead Stories also marked the article as a hoax by stating the inconsistency of the French words inscribed on the wall ("Divorce hall, all punches allowed"), while the major language of Ghana is English. The image clearly appears doctored. 

Furthermore, Ghana's divorce law as stated in The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1971 (Act 367), states NOTHING about appearing in a divorce hearing dressed the same as when the couple got married. This argument was also cited by Lead Stories. The act, however, specifies a DIVORCE PETITION as one of the main requirements to start the proceedings. 
Togo, another country cited in the article, is certainly not alien to divorces. In a study conducted by Clark and Otto in 2015, published in Population and Development Review, Togo recorded a 21.9% of first unions that ended through a divorce (2013-2014 data). Although the divorce rate in sub-Saharan Africa is declining, it is not 0. The study, in fact, reports that Togo's divorce rate has declined by 10% points.

Lastly, Togo's cultural regard for family might explain the need for the approval of the mothers-in-law. Togolese values extended family and strong kinship. However, this has nothing to do with the legal process of getting a divorce. In fact, "Togolese law does not make a provision for divorces of unions that are not legally binding (i.e., traditional, common-law, or customary marriages)".  

[Assignment Number 2]

Duterte revives plunder threat vs. Prietos


Last 2017, President Duterte started firing shots against the Prieto family, owner of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI). Mid 2018, his plunder threat to the family was once again revived. From the paper’s “unfair coverage” during Duterte’s campaign period to the administration’s war on drugs, President Duterte also cited violations in the family’s other businesses— Sunvar Realty Corp. and Golden Donuts. 

Sunvar Realty Corp. is the company that developed and leased Mile Long property from the government. It can be remembered that President Duterte demanded the return of Mile Long property to the government. Based on the decision of the Makati RTC, Sunvar was ordered to vacate the property and pay back rent since the expiration of its original lease in December 2002. 

The Prieto family also owns Golden Donuts, the licensee of Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in the Philippines. President Duterte also cited the tax evasion case against the company, amounting to four billion pesos. Golden Donuts, however, stressed that their tax issues have already been settled with the BIR last 2012. 

Just as President Duterte started hounding the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), he was also exposing controversies related to the other businesses of the Prieto family. In that case, he has made clear his dislike of the family. It is also worth noting that the President’s attacks against PDI seemed to have stopped when the majority of the newspaper’s share was bought by Ramon Ang— owner of San Miguel Corp., CNN Philippines, and a known friend of President Duterte. After the buyout, less has been said of the newspaper but more on the family’s other businesses. 

The timing of things is quite interesting. When ABS-CBN was being badgered with threats, so was PDI and Rappler. They are the news outlets that are in some ways or another, published something unfavorable for the Duterte administration. Media outlets that fall under the President’s dislike-list must suffer if not go down. Everything started with verbal threats— closure, plunder, tax evasion, etc.— and legal complaints have always followed. 

Additional sources: