For almost ten years, I headed a national association of Asian American journalists based in San Francisco. Our organization’s mission was to promote fair and accurate news coverage of the Asian American community and issues. We partnered with other journalists of color associations representing Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.
We worked closely with mainstream news media organizations, including TIME Magazine. They too, were committed to the same mission. Or so they assured us.
It is with this premise that I now ask the question: Will TIME Magazine be fair and accurate when it profiles Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in its 2017 TIME 100 Most Influential Persons in the World?
That is, of course, assuming that TIME’s editors will decide to include Duterte in that list.
Duterte won the No. 1 spot in TIME’s online poll asking its readers on who they think should be included in the 100 influential people. He not only consistently garnered the most number of votes among an impressive list of famous people including Pope Francis, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Justin Trudeau, but also led the pack with 5% of all votes. The next group of leaders had 3% of the votes. (By the way, U.S. President Donald Trump was way down with 2% of the votes shared with many others.)
TIME was clear about the fact that the final decision on who to include in the 100 will rest on its editors. But it would be idiotic to exclude the top winner in the poll of its own making.
So, when TIME profiles the 100 people, will it be fair and accurate in its write-up about Duterte?
Already, in its announcement of the winner of its online poll, TIME chose to focus on a negative, unsubstantiated profile of Duterte, focusing on the president’s war on drugs and claiming that “8,000 people” have been killed as a result of that war.
Will TIME give sufficient amount of space on its pages to talk about why Duterte topped its online voting?
Not only does Duterte have the support and confidence of 9 out of 10 Filipinos, including those who did not vote for him. He also has the respect and admiration of many of the world’s leaders from China, Japan, Australia, the Middle East and practically all the countries in the Asian region.
In less than a year, Duterte has accomplished more than what his predecessor has in six years, and more than the accomplishments during the entire administration of past Philippine presidents before that. Optimism about the country has never been at its highest level.
I can only imagine that TIME’s 100 is a list of people who have made contributions to their respective countries, organizations or fields of endeavor. To be negative about Duterte in a TIME profile would render the magazine’s annual recognition of world personalities not only futile but hypocritical.