By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

NOT MANIPULATED. The Philippine resupply boat Unaizah May 4 being subjected to a water cannon blast by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel as it approached the Ayungin Shoal on March 23, 2024. Media groups on Wednesday (March 27) belied the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s accusation that the journalists who covered the routine Philippine resupply missions were manipulating the materials they release to the public. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Media groups have belied the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s accusation that the journalists who covered the routine Philippine resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal were manipulating the materials they released to the public.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), in a statement Wednesday, dismissed the claim as a “barefaced lie”.

“[T]he association strongly rejects and condemns the false, baseless claims by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying and the Chinese Embassy in Manila that journalists ‘manipulate the videos they recorded’ in South China Sea to project the Philippines as a victim,’” it said.

The group, composed of foreign and Filipino journalists reporting for international media outlets, said it takes “deep offense at the insinuation that the press is a troublemaker and in cahoots with the government to forward a political agenda”.

“Members of FOCAP include both Filipinos and foreign nationals from around the world, some of whom have embedded in these Philippine missions,” it said.

“The claim that the Philippines ‘had [journalists] manipulate’ their footage is a barefaced lie,” it added.

It explained that a free and independent press “reports not what they are told, but what they observe, framed by historical and political context”.

“The footage seen in the press is vetted by multiple sources and newsrooms. The work of journalists, including members of FOCAP and especially when carried by multiple media outlets, speaks for itself,” it said.

“The statements by the Foreign Ministry spokesman & Embassy are an insult to the integrity of journalists and an alarming attempt to muzzle an independent press,” it added.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, meanwhile, stated that the Philippine government had “no say” in the production and editorial decisions of reports related to the Ayungin coverage, except for “operational and national security considerations.”

“The media is not a party to the dispute and should not be demonized by parties for airing contending views on the issue and unflattering reports on incidents in the West Philippine Sea,” it said.

The West Philippine Sea refers to the areas in the South China Sea over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying on March 26 claimed that each time the Philippines delivered supplies to the Filipino troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre, “they had many journalists on board, and had them manipulate the videos they recorded” to “project the Philippines as a victim”.

The accusation follows the viral March 23 water cannon use of the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) against Unaizah May 4 that was ferrying supplies to BRP Sierra Madre, leading to heavy damage to the civilian boat and injuries to its personnel.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lin Jian on March 25 confirmed the CCG actions, saying it was “justified, lawful, professional, restrained, and beyond reproach”. (PNA)