Phisgoc hits back at SEA Games ‘fake news’

Alan Peter Cayetano, former Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, and now chair of Phisgoc, pictured in March 2018. (Photo by Parker Song/Pool/Getty Images)

The under-fire organising committee of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games has said most of the stories this week about logistical problems and poor preparations for the event were false.

Channel News Asia reports that Alan Peter Cayetano, the chairman of Phisgoc, the organising committee, told journalists that “95 per cent” of the stories were fake. He said: “I do know that during the digital age we need to report immediately, but that doesn’t take out the responsibility to check if it’s true or not.”

Cayetano cited examples including an image shared by a news outlet of an unfinished stadium that turned out to have been taken in another country. In another example, there was an allegedly false report that football players were served a fried fish dish that is a popular, but unhealthy, street food in Manila.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines responded to Cayetano’s comments, saying: “Attempting to dictate how the media should report the news has no place in a democracy.”

Social and mainstream media in the Philippines were awash this week with reports of athletes and teams experiencing problems with accommodation and food, and venues being unfinished or hastily put together.

Earlier this week, Phisgoc apologised for the problems arriving teams were experiencing. President Rodrigo Duterte was reported to be concerned about the headlines and considering an investigation into the preparations for the Games.

The stories about the Games preparations appear to have become the focus of an information war on social media between opponents and proponents of the Philippines government. Opponents have been leaping on and amplifying the stories, whereas government supporters have been urging citizens to move past them and make the games a success.

President Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo addressed both sides of the debate yesterday, encouraging the media to be “more prudent” in its reporting, but also urging Phisgoc to perform better, saying: “The critics have a point.”