Accrediting vloggers, a Palace media priority

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NEW GAME CHANGE? The recent election season has seen the emergence of more vloggers covering events alongside mainstream media. The group pictured here are mostly pro-Marcos and pro-Duterte vloggers swarming around activist priest Robert Reyes outside the Electoral Commission main office in Manila on May 11. —RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — Accrediting vloggers to cover President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Malacañang will be a priority of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) under the watch of appointed press officer Trixie Cruz Angeles.

“We are … pushing for vloggers to be accredited to be invited to some of the briefings, especially those hosted by the president-elect. This is a priority that we have articulated,” Angeles said during the Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday.

She did not explain the guidelines for accrediting vloggers who would be allowed to cover presidential events.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that while accrediting vloggers to cover Malacañang meant in principle to democratize access to the elected president, it “must not come at the expense of mainstream media. , who were sidelined during the [election] campaign, as false information quickly spread online, some of which was attributed to the same network.

Angeles, a lawyer-vlogger, served as “head of social media” under the PCOO from 2017 to 2018.

In August 2017, Communications Secretary and current acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar issued a draft policy for accrediting bloggers who wished to cover President Rodrigo Duterte’s events.

The policy is still “existing,” the president’s deputy spokesman Kris Ablan told reporters in a text message on Wednesday.

In Department Order (DO) No. 15, Andanar said the credential would be issued to any Filipino citizen who is at least 18 years old and has at least 5,000 followers on any social media platform.

According to its OD, a social media practitioner is “a person who maintains a publicly accessible social media page, blog, or website that generates content and whose primary advocacy is the regular dissemination of original news and/or opinions of interest”.

In May 2017, a pro-Duterte vlogger was allowed to cover Duterte’s official visit to Russia.

Project evaluation

Angeles said she would “evaluate all pending projects, and we will decide later whether to prioritize them or possibly put them on the back burner.”

When asked if the PCOO would allow all reporters to physically cover the events of Marcos Jr., she said, “We will first need to review existing policies and determine, make a decision, as to their suitability for the current times. .”

In February 2018, Rappler journalists, including its CEO Maria Ressa, were banned from covering the Duterte events after calling the news site “fake media”.

In a May 16 television interview, Victor Rodriguez, longtime spokesperson for Marcos Jr. and his appointed executive secretary, said vloggers could also be considered members of the mainstream media.

“The way we do our reporting has also changed. Even traditional brick-and-mortar media have taken to social media,” Rodriguez said.

“We will see if they also have the right to report what happens to the state of our nation,” he added.

“What standards? »

But Lucia Tangi, a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines and president of the Journalism Studies Association of the Philippines, told the Inquirer that accrediting vloggers to cover Malacañang or the presidency would be “problematic”.

“First, what standards will the PCOO set in accrediting vloggers? How can the PCOO hold these vloggers accountable when they don’t have editors and publishers to vouch for them? What ethical and editorial standards are you going to impose on these vloggers?” said Tangi.

“We must continue to uphold and protect the integrity of the journalism profession,” she said.

Journalism professor Danilo Arao of the UP College of Mass Communication said accrediting vloggers to cover the Palace could be “dangerous” as fake news was often spread by influencers and vloggers untrained in the practice of journalism .

Angeles, who maintains a vlog seen as supportive of Duterte, said the PCOO is looking to hold palace briefings once or twice a week, “and more if necessary.”

“The regular [once-weekly briefings] are for updates on outstanding issues, then possibly a second if there are any issues that need to be resolved immediately,” she said, adding:

“We are not going to limit it, of course. If necessary, we will have other briefings. But other than that, the plan is one or two at least.

When running for president, Marcos Jr. favored vloggers and influencers and largely avoided mainstream media, believing they were “biased” against him. Several journalists who covered him said they were harassed or excluded from coverage.

“Toxic Mediascape”

Among other things, Arao suggested that Angeles consult with the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) and other stakeholders about his proposal.

In a statement, the MPC said it would “defer comment on the matter until the details of the proposed policy are defined by the PCOO’s new leadership.”

Arao said Andanar has accredited bloggers and influencers, but they rarely show up for official Malacañang briefings. The policy was criticized after a known pro-Duterte blogger, Sass Rogando Sassot, confronted a foreign correspondent about the latter’s preference for interviewing a certain blogger critical of Duterte.

“Given the toxic media landscape, this is a dangerous proposition given that the trafficking of ‘fake news’ is perpetrated by some ‘influencers’ and there is continued harassment and intimidation of some journalists to ‘delegitimize’ them,” Arao said.

The NUJP said: “The space for trained professional journalists providing verified information continues to shrink, and if the new Marcos administration is sincere in upholding transparency and press freedom, it will ensure that this space is protected.

Uson’s office

Social media practitioners wishing to cover Duterte’s events were advised to seek accreditation from the PCOO’s Social Media Office headed by then Deputy Secretary Mocha Uson.

When asked then how the PCOO would implement quality control on accredited social media practitioners, Ablan said he hoped they would “behave” once accreditation was granted. With that presumption, he said, there was no reason to state in the DO a prohibition on the use of foul language.

According to a Freedom of Information request filed on the electronic FOI portal (eFOI), as of August 15, 2021, there were no social media accounts or blogs accredited by the PCOO.

—WITH AN INQUIRER RESEARCH REPORT
SOURCES: ARCHIVES INVESTIGATORS, PCOO, FOI

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