MANILA, Philippines — A media organization said it was “appalled by the utterly uncalled for and, in the end, unjustified public confrontation pro-administration social media enabler Sass Rogando Sasot forced on BBC Southeast Asia correspondent Jonathan Head” at the International Media Center in Pasay City Monday.
As Head approached to greet Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, Sasot lashed at him demanding that he explain why BBC interviewed Jover Laurio, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte who is behind the Pinoy Ako blog, after her once secret identity was outed by pro-administration bloggers.
“Tell me, Mr. Jonathan, how is it possible that Jover Laurio, a very minor blogger in the Philippines, was featured by the BBC in order to defend herself against the people who outed her identity, but not someone like me whose social media following is way, way higher than her, whose Facebook engagement is way, way higher than her, and who you have even interacted on Facebook?” Sasot asked.
Head explained he had nothing to do with the Laurio interview and repeatedly suggested they find time to talk to each other as Sasot hurled accusations against the BBC and media in general.
Reacting to the incident on Tuesday, November 15, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it objected to the “gall” with which Sasot “lambasted and attempted to blame a journalist for content published by his outfit in which he had neither control nor participation, points she eventually had to acknowledge.”
“But the fact aside that all that Sasot succeeded in doing was betray her utter ignorance about how the media work, confronting Head over content that, as she most probably knew, he had nothing to do with sets a dangerous precedent if her deplorable behavior is emulated by the wide following she claims,” the NUJP said.
“Such an indiscriminate attitude of singling out people because of mere affiliation with media outfits Sasot and her ilk, as well as their followers, may disagree with or find objectionable is extremely dangerous and can only worsen the impunity with which the profession and its practitioners are attacked in what has long remained as one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists,” the media organization pointed out.
The NUJP has documented at least 178 media killings since 1986, including the five journalists murdered since Duterte became president and the 32 who were among the 58 victims of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, recognized as the single deadliest attack on the press ever.
The group also took Uson to task, pointed out that she “should have known her job well enough” to tell that “what Sasot was doing was not only wrong but dangerous.”