'Mass panic' in the Philippines from Fake News Report

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Philippines national news station ABS-CBN apologized after its false report “caused a mass panic.”

ABS-CBN had reported Feb. 24 on “late night newscast” program Bandila that two people had a flesh-eating skin disease, according to Philippines news outlets The Inquirer and the Manila Standard Today.

However, it turned out the two people in question were actually suffering from psoriasis and leprosy, The Inquirer reported.

ABS-CBN’s Julius Babao, an anchor of Bandila, apologized on the air Feb. 27 for the report, saying, according to The Inquirer:

Bandila apologizes that their report about the two separate cases of a skin-disease caused a mass panic especially in Pangasinan.”

He also said that the network’s ombudsman is looking into the incident and that “there would be actions taken according to the results” of the investigation.

The original news report focused on the alleged “mysterious disease” causing “decaying” skin, according to The Inquirer‘s Feb. 26 report. Babao, who anchored the newscast that night, had said, “It is not the program’s intention to scare the public but to report the information we gathered so that authorities would give appropriate action.”

In response, though, government official Orpheus Velasco, the provincial information chief, responded to the news report warning by saying, “Let us not sensationalize a story that would only cause undue panic.”

Manila Standard Today‘s Bong Austero pointed out some warning signs with the original report:

“The ABS-CBN report was too scripted for comfort and seemed more like a documentary feature than a news report. The reporter Jasmin Romero was wearing a surgical gown and a mask although she still didn’t look like she was in danger of contracting something as common as, well, the common cold. The interviews and the shots of the patients and their families showed tell-tale signs of directing—the technical crew obviously had lots of time to block, rewrite, and reshoot.”

Austero went on, “The footages were too graphic, and some of the allegations (such as worms and ants allegedly coming out of the lesions) were clearly meant to shock rather than inform and educate. No sir, the whole thing didn’t come off as newsworthy.”

ABS-CBN unpublished the report, according to The Inquirer.

iMediaEthics is writing to The Inquirer to learn more about this incident, including who told the station’s reporters that the two patients had a flesh-eating disease and how it attempted to fact check the claims. We’ll update with any response.

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‘Mass panic’ in the Philippines from Fake News Report

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