The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Wednesday called out Thinking Pinoy publisher Rey Joseph Nieto for repeating his accusation against journalist Jes Aznar during the Senate hearing on fake news.
In a statement, NUJP said that Nieto's claim that Aznar had endangered government soldiers by posting online videos he took of the fighting in the early days of the Marawi crisis was "utterly discredited."
It added that Nieto, who is also a consultant of the Department of Foreign Affairs, downplayed his criticism of Aznar and omitted certain facts.
"Nieto made it appear that what he did was a benign reminder to an errant journalist instead of the hate-filled and, worst of all, totally false rant that it was. And while he did mention that his followers had been 'angered' by what Aznar supposedly did, he omitted the fact that his lies had unleashed a barrage of harassment and threats against the respected photojournalist," NUJP said.
"In fact, neither did Nieto acknowledge the fact that he went against a government official—Presidential Task Force on Media Safety executive director Joel Sy Egco—calling him a traitor for rightly coming to Aznar’s defense," it added.
It also pointed out that Vera Files, whose fact-checking was questioned by Nieto, is the "only media outfit in the country accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network."
In a blog post earlier this year, Nieto accused Aznar of posting real-time video of government snipers in the middle of an encounter against terrorist group Maute in Marawi City, compromising the safety and tactical advantage of government forces.
Nieto said that the photojournalist's video, posted May 25, was less than 48 hours old when it was uploaded to Instagram. He added that Aznar's first post on the Marawi clash was on May 25, suggesting that the video was taken and posted on the same day.
He once again brought up the incident during Wednesday's hearing.
'Proof he is spreading fake news'
In a statement, Aznar called Nieto's use of the issue at the hearing "foul and vile."
"Up to now, I am in close coordination with the Philippine military on my coverages on the ground and have been granted exclusive coverages many times," he said.
"If Nieto’s accusations of endangering the troops were true, why is the AFP still allowing me to cover on the ground, and why is it until now there are no sanctions against me, especially if Mindanao is under a state of martial law?
"And while that the agencies involved, namely the AFP and the PNP, already released a statement saying that Nieto’s claims were not true, his use of this issue at the Senate hearing is proof enough that he is spreading fake news."
Referring to Nieto's job as a consultant with the Foreign Affairs department, Aznar added, "If he is so good at military analysis, why is he with the DFA and not the AFP or DND?"
Perjury or contempt
NUJP said that Nieto should have earned a perjury charge or at the very least a contempt citation for his offenses under oath, and said that there is no place in government for "barefaced liars."
"That Nieto did all this under oath should have earned him a perjury charge or a contempt citation at the very least. That he did so as a consultant of the DFA, paid with the people’s money, makes it a hundred times worse. Indeed, that the DFA even considered taking him in says much of how low the standards of governance have sunk and how much premium quality service to the people means to the government," NUJP said.
"RJ Nieto dares demand accountability? We say, let him be accountable himself. There is no place in government—or in the field of professional communications, for that matter—for barefaced liars," it added. — Jessica Bartolome/BM, GMA News