VERA Files appears to be part of an international network of self-declared media “fact-checkers” coordinated and supported by a US State Department unit called the Global Engagement Center (GEC), the Americans’ newest propaganda outfit.
While organized way back in 2010, Vera Files started getting funds from the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy only in 2017. This was after the GEC was created through the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act passed by the US Congress in 2016.
By 2021, the website-only Vera Files had received a total of $350,600 — or P20 million — from the NED.
This is a colossal amount considering that Vera Files is just a website without any print edition, employs no full-time reporters, and has a staff of only three editors and two internet technicians. Vera Files has never disclosed how it got to spend P20 million in five years.
Vera Files and its “board of trustees” president Ellen Tordesillas’ names appeared in the State Department GEC’s emails and files obtained by the Washington, D.C.-based civil rights nonprofit America First Legal (AFL) through a US Freedom of Information lawsuit filed May 2, 2023.
Three emails were addressed to “Ellen Toredesillas/Vera Files/Phillippnes [sic]” as one of 11 members of a “core group” that included self-proclaimed “fact-checkers” from such countries that the GEC operates in as Croatia, India and Turkey to address reported harassment of members of an International Fact-Checking Network organized by the Poynter Institute.
The AFL had sued the State Department to expose “how the GEC carries out state propaganda through willing participants from private media organizations,” according to an article posted on its website. It reported that the documents it obtained (posted on its website) provide evidence that:
– “The GEC coordinates with a global cartel of Soros-, Gates-, Omidyar-, and Big Tech-funded ‘fact-checkers’ through the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to control the international media narrative.
– “Mainstream media organizations that were previously respected for critical investigative journalism now serve as mere organs of state media and purveyors of Deep State propaganda.
– “The GEC provides financial support to media organizations, which implicates their supposed ‘independence’ as journalists.”
AFL continued: “The GEC routinely coordinates with a global cartel of ‘independent’ ‘fact-checkers’ led by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and members of its IFCN, which received its initial funding from the Department of State-funded National Endowment for Democracy, the Omidyar Network, Google, Facebook, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.” Among Poynter’s biggest funders are George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
In US Senate hearings in 2020, it was revealed that the GEC is a full-blown propaganda enterprise of the US State Department, headed by an official of “special envoy” rank. In one written answer to a question in those hearings, its head special envoy, Lea Gabrielle (a former Navy intelligence officer), testified:
“The GEC works through private sector companies and organizations to implement activities where engaging their expertise, credibility and networks is the most efficient and effective means of achieving our objectives. In terms of its programs and content development, the GEC works with NGOs and civil society organizations that operate on the ground overseas.”
The GEC envoy revealed in one hearing that her unit works with military commands like the Indo-Pacific Command. “The GEC’s multi-pronged initiative in Mindanao, southern Philippines, is an excellent example of inter-agency coordination with both Embassy Manila and INDOPACOM. With a peace deal stalled on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, more militant Islamist groups are emerging and aligning themselves with the so-called Islamic State. Among the worst are the Abu Sayyaf Group and the ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). GEC programs identify and engage at-risk populations through messaging hubs, tech camps, hackathons, and other local skills-building activities.”
The Philippine-based members of IFCN which the GEC works with are Vera Files, Rappler and MindaNews. Rappler and MindaNews each received from 2018 to 2020 P26 million in funds from NED.
As in the case of Vera Files, these are enormous amounts considering they are just websites without print versions, the biggest expense for newspapers accounting for 60 percent of costs. From my experience as head of a huge news website, the costs of Vera Files and MindaNews for the three years that they were funded with P26 million by NED would not have exceeded P4 million. Where did the rest of the money go? While Rappler has a bigger staff, it did also get another P100 million from Omidyar Network and George Soros’ North Base Media.
I have written six columns from 2018 to 2021 exposing the fact that these websites have been violating the constitutional provisions banning a single cent of foreign money going into local media outfits, in order to shield Filipinos from views that interfere with our sovereignty.
Other than their cavalier attitude toward the Constitution (“Foreign funding is different from foreign ownership,” says their US-based rah-rah girl Sheila Coronel), these websites share an unmistakable feature: They were all stridently, vehemently against then-President Rodrigo Duterte, with Rappler even grossly exaggerating the number of those killed in his anti-drug war as early as the first several months of its launch.
Why would they be so biased against Duterte if not for the fact that this was the command of their funders from the US, who despised the president not just for cursing their beloved President Obama but who was also taking the Philippines away from American vassalage? “He who pays the piper calls the tune,”is nearly an axiom in journalism.
Isn’t that treason, as their staff received big money from American entities as payment for their propaganda services? Don’t tell me they weren’t receiving salaries — even if these are called “allowances” — drawn from those US funds. And in their zeal to demonize Duterte, they painted the country as one without the rule of law.
CITATION and FURTHER READING
- America First Legal Lawsuit Against the Department of State Obtains Documents from the Global Engagement Center Exposing How “Private” Media Organizations Carry Out State Propaganda
- Rappler Articles and how Ressa violates the Constitution
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