Photo of journalist 'helping NPA' is actually from a safety training seminar in 2013

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Photo of journalist 'helping NPA' is actually from a safety training seminar in 2013
This screenshot is of a March 17, 2013 MindaNews story "Women journalists, media workers gather for 1st all-women safety training" retrieved on May 17, 2020.
Screenshot of MindaNews website

MANILA, Philippines — Journalists over the weekend condemned the misuse of a photo from a safety training seminar in 2013 to insinuate links between an ABS-CBN journalist and communist rebels.

The photo used was of Rowena "Weng" Carranza-Paraan—former National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chair—and other women journalists in a forested area crouching around what looks to be an injured man.

"A MindaNews photograph of a simulation exercise during the first aid module of the country’s first all-women media safety training in Cagayan de Oro City in March 2013 has been maliciously used to red-tag a journalist, an act MindaNews vehemently condemns," Davao City-based MindaNews said on Friday.

In a series of social media posts published on Wednesday, May 13 over Facebook, a certain Aram dela Cruz accused Paraan, along with ten other women, of treating wounded communist rebels in the photograph. 

"What is the real connection between Paraan and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front. Does ABS-CBN know this?" Dela Cruz wrote in Filipino in the posts, which also included a solo photograph of Paraan. 

The photo and the false claim have since been spread by other Facebook users.

The picture was taken almost a decade ago, during an all-women safety training seminar organized by the NUJP at the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village in Cagayan de Oro City., MindaNews, which carried the photo in its 2013 article on the workshop, said.

According to an earlier fact check by journalism students at UP Diliman, "the 2013 training was held ... for about 20 journalists from Pagadian, Zamboanga, Lanao del Norte, Kidapawan and Surigao del Norte and development communication students from Mati, Davao Oriental." 

Taken by photojournalist Vic Kintanar, the photograph shows a simulation module on administering first aid to an injured person facilitated by Paraan, a media safety trainer certified by the International News Safety Institute.

The ten other women as well as the "wounded man"  in the photo were also journalists.  

'Malicious twisting to mislead others'

Paraan, also a former Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism research head, currently serves as the head of "Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo", the citizen journalism arm of ABS-CBN Corp. whose broadcast operations were ordered ceased by the government after its franchise expired. 

On her social media accounts, Paraan said: "Unfortunately, those who want to maliciously twist a media safety training photo taken in 2013, conducted in coordination with the 4th ID...are using the MindaNews photo to mislead others."

Though Dela Cruz's photos have been taken down, the same photos have been reposted by pro-administration Facebook page Enlightened Pinoy. 

The two posts read in Filipino: "Run NPA run. Pictures of injured NPA rebels being treated in the forest," and "Exposed! Please explain. What is the real connection between Rowena Paraan, (NUJP) head of Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo of ABS-CBN, and the CPP-NPA_NDF? What are you doing in the mountains?"

"MindaNews condemns the malicious use of the 2013 photograph as it endangers the lives of Paraan, the 10 Mindanao-based women journalists in the photograph and the lone male reporter who acted as the 'injured' person," the news website said.

It adds that "the historic all-women safety training was organized by NUJP in coordination with the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, which handled two sessions."

NUJP, in a separate statement, said that it "has been holding media safety trainings all over the country for more than a decade amid the continued killing of media workers, intensified attacks and increased cases of harassment against the media."

It added: "It is utterly shameless but dangerous that a historic media safety training aimed at protecting and ensuring the safety of media workers is being used to malign, threaten and put journalists and the NUJP in danger."

RELATED: Philippines 'patient zero' for disinformation — communications professor

Academics both local and international have said that the Philippines today is the "patient zero" of digital disinformation owing to cyber-troll armies linked to supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte.

'Utterly shameless but dangerous'

In a statement, the NUJP slammed the posts for twisting the photographs' narratives and endangering the lives of the journalists depicted.

The union is one of many progressive groups publicly accused of being a legal front for communist rebels by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which earlier erroneously claimed in a series of graphics that the halt order on ABS-CBN's broadcast operations was due to numerous legal issues.

These issues had been addressed at a Senate hearing but not at the House of Representatives, which did not hold hearings on bills to renew the network's franchise. The National Telecommunications Commission's cease and desist order against ABS-CBN was premised on the lapsed franchise, and not on the legal issues that NTF-ELCAC claimed. 

After being criticized for being a peddler of false information, NTF-ELCAC said that communist rebels were "taking advantage" of the closure of the broadcast giant. It did not acknowledge or explain why it spread the false claims.

READ: Anti-communist task force, PCOO spread false claims on ABS-CBN franchise

In the past weeks, media groups have expressed caution over what they called shrinking space for fundamental freedoms, as the past two months of enhanced community quarantine have seen citizens arrested for posting opinions critical of the administration on social media. 




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