As the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility , the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the National Press Club keep reminding us, press freedom in the Philippines is under a continuing threat. What they — well, okay, the CMFR does — sometimes neglect to mention is that sometimes that threat is from so-called journalists themselves.
Sports website Spin.ph warned on September 21 of a “chilling warning to media” in the Philippine Basketball Association banning sports writer Snow Badua from covering PBA games and barring PBA officials, referees, and players from granting him interviews.
The ban came after Badua alleged that a PBA official was having an affair with a model, but , Spin.ph says there is more to it than that:
A PBA official, requesting anonymity, intimated that some team officials present in that board meeting were fed up with articles that Spin.ph has dared run in the past. These presumably include the ‘farm teams’ issue and game-fixing in the league, which we did run, precisely to give the professional teams a chance to air their side and address accusations constantly thrown at them by fans online.
That may well be true, but here is Badua and Spin.ph’s original sin:
A top PBA official had warned us that the league board agreed to take action against Badua on Friday — the day Spin.ph ran a story about model Abby Poblador’s confession, in a popular radio show, of her alleged affair with Chua, and a good two days before Badua posted the tweets that have been made grounds for his ban.
Despite the warnings, we ran a second story on Monday culled from Badua’s interview with the radio show’s host, Mo Twister, confirming that Poblador mentioned Chua’s name “like 15 times” during her “confession” of an affair. (Emphasis, ours)
In the first place, and no matter your view of infidelity, whether someone is having an affair or not is not usually a matter of public interest in the sense that it has in journalism. Earlier this year, Gawker posted a story on a publishing executive who was married and had kids and who allegedly “Tried To Pay $2,500 for a Night With a Gay Porn Star.” Gawker earned brickbats for it and later took the story down.
A Salon.com piece on the issue had this to say, and this is relevant in this case:
There are moments in life when a person’s private life might be up for public discussion. If you’ve been in a position of power and used that power to attempt to deny same-sex couples rights while apparently cruising the Union Station men’s room, that’s news. If you are a pastor who has preached that being gay is like being alcoholic and you’re looking for dates on Grindr, you may be found out and you may have to face the consequences of that. If you’re using your influence in a way that is actively hurtful to others while secretly engaging in the same behavior you condemn others for, there’s a fair chance that’s going to bite you back.
But Chua, if he is even having an affair and this website is not saying that at all, does not fall under any of those categories. Who he sleeps with or doesn’t sleep with has nothing to do with basketball and publishing a story on it or posting about it on social media is so far from journalism that it is sickening to hear Badua call himself a journalist as he did in an interview on ANC’s “Hardball”.
Consider this sad piece of supposed journalism:
Mo Twister, Mohan Gumatay in real life, said Poblador mentioned the former coach turned team executive’s name ‘maybe 15 times’ during a two-hour interview in his GTWM (Good Times With Mo) radio program which was aired via live streaming on Wednesday night.
“She freaking full out said, Alfrancis Chua. In my opinion, she mentioned Alfrancis Chua maybe fifteen times,” said Gumatay in an interview aired over Spin.ph writer Snow Badua’s ‘Reliable Source’ radio sports program on DZSR.
“She said that: ‘I am a mistress of Alfrancis Chua,’ she said that,” Gumatay added.
The article, which Spin.ph says was “culled from Badua’s interview with the radio show’s host, Mo Twister, confirming that Poblador mentioned Chua’s name ‘like 15 times’ during her ‘confession’ of an affair” has nothing at all from Poblador herself. Or, for that matter, from Chua, who has just been accused of having a mistress. This is hearsay at best, malicious gossip at most.
On “Hardball”, Badua was asked whether he was able to confirm the claim with Poblador, or even the claim that Poblador had made the claim at all. He had not.
Asked whether he had talked to Chua about the claim, he said that he had tried but that the Ginebra coach was not answering his calls. None of this was stated in the article alleging the allegation of an affair, however.
This was bad journalism that should never have even made it to whatever CMS that Spin.ph uses, yet the sports website writes:
Is this a threat to press freedom?
Of course, it is.
And they are right. Except the threat is not posed by anyone but themselves.