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FACT CHECK: Photo of Papua New Guinea local mistaken for ‘Bajau’

A viral post that appeared on Twitter mistakenly showed a wrong photo of a Papua New Guinea local as that of the “Bajau” from the Sulu archipelago.

samabajaufactcheck


The post, which generated at least 15 million views, 7780 reposts, 727 quotes, 58.2k likes, and 8,010 bookmarks on X (formerly Twitter) as of 10:25 a.m. Friday, 8 December, was posted by X user Historic Vids (@historyinmemes) with the caption:

“The Bajau Tribe, also known as sea nomads, originates from the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines, among other areas in Southeast Asia. Renowned for their remarkable free-diving skills, they sustain themselves mainly through activities like spearfishing in the sea,” the post said. 

“Studies have shown that the Bajau people possess a genetic adaptation commonly referred to as the “sea nomad gene.” This genetic variant often results in larger spleen sizes among the Bajau, potentially aiding in their ability to hold their breath for extended periods while diving. This physical adaptation is thought to be advantageous for their exceptional free-diving lifestyle,” the post added. 

Using reverse image tools, we found out that the photo was originally taken in 2005 by Hungarian photographer Dombovari Tibor.

Tibor’s photo appeared in a story about the indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea in 2015, which included the photo of the individuals mistaken for Bajaus. Using Google translate tools, we determined that the photo was originally sourced from one taken by the photographer

Somehow, various posts have attributed the photo to be that of Sama-Bajaus throughout the years since the photograph was taken. 

According to an archived version of the Bangsamoro Commission for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage website, the term Sama-Bajau “refers to several Austronesian ethnic groups of Maritime Southeast Asia with their origins from the southern Philippines.” 

In the Philippines, the term Bajau (or Badjao), is an exonym, or a term that others assign to a group.

The Sama refer to themselves as one of many subgroups, for example Sama Bangingi in Zamboanga. The sea-dwelling Sama call themselves Sama Dilaut (or people of the sea).

According to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Sama Dilaut is mistakenly called Badjao.

In places like Davao City, the Sama are known to be peace-loving people and is documented as one of the 11 tribes of the locality. 

While usually portrayed as “sea gypsies” or “sea nomads” and living most of their lives in houseboats (lepa), the Sama have also ventured into other trades on land such as the buying and selling of shoes and garments and jewelry, as well as the vending of fresh seafood. 

sama photo

If anything, the story about the Sama people having more developed spleens is indeed well-documented. In an article published in the journal Cell, a study of the improved anatomy among the Sama has contributed to the understanding of the medical community of human hypoxia.

The journal article sees it as an important step in improvements to the treatment of emergency situations involving hypoxia and the ability of humans to hold their breaths. 

As with all our other reports, MindaNews welcomes leads or suggestions from the public to potential fact-check stories.  

MindaNews is a verified signatory to the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Checking Network. (Yas D. Ocampo / MindaNews)

MindaNews is the news service arm of the Mindanao Institute of Journalism. It is composed of independent, professional journalists who believe and practice people empowerment through media.

23C Saturn St. GSIS Subdivision, Davao City Philippines Tel. No.: 082 297 4360 editor [at] mindanews.com

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About MindaNews Fact Check

MindaNews Fact Check seeks to fight misinformation and disinformation circulating on the internet, news platforms and communities that we serve. 


What is MindaNews Fact Check?


MindaNews Fact Check tracks and debunks fake news, false claims and misleading statements of government officials, civil society leaders and netizens being spread on the internet, especially on social media sites. MindaNews values truth and accuracy in performing our journalistic work.


Why we fact-check?


Politicians, government officials and other public and private figures at times tend to bend facts to suit or advance their vested interests, or their principals, in effect misleading the public. The distorted facts spread easily with the popularity of the internet and the wide influence of social media.


As independent journalists, our primordial duty is to tell the truth and present facts to help the public discern issues and concerns impacting their lives.


How do we rate claims?


FAKE -  if the claim is completely invented.


FALSE - if the claim contradicts, undermines or disputes truthful facts, actual events and official records (i.e. laws and scientific studies)


MISLEADING – if the claim is based on truth but maliciously twisted that gives a different impression to serve a group or individual’s vested interests.


ALTERED – pertains to images or videos that were manipulated to mislead the public.


MISSING CONTEXT – if the claim needs more clarification or contextualization to make it clearer.

Where do you post your results?


We post our fact-checked stories in mindanews.com, on Facebook and Twitter with links to the original piece. We have a dedicated fact check page, where all fact-checked stories can be found. 


How did MindaNews Fact Check start?


Since its establishment in 2001, MindaNews has been living up to its vision of being the “leading provider of accurate, timely and comprehensive news and information on Mindanao and its peoples, serving economically, politically and culturally empowered communities” and its mission to “professionally and responsibly cover Mindanao events, peoples and issues to inform, educate, inspire and influence communities.”


MindaNews was founded by reporters precisely to ensure that reports about Mindanao, an island grouping that has suffered misinformation and disinformation long before these words became fashionable, are accurate. 


Our policy has always been to ensure that reports are thoroughly vetted before they are dispatched and uploaded on our website. 


Our fact-checking initiative with a uniform format started in October 2021 as part of Internews’ pioneering Philippine Fact-Checker Incubator (PFCI) project. Internews is an international non-profit that supports independent media from 100 countries. 


Prior to the PFCI project, MindaNews co-founded Tsek.ph, a collaboration among Philippine media institutions to fight disinformation and misinformation during the 2019. Tsek.ph did the same thing for the 2022 elections. 


Where do you get funds?


MindaNews has sustained its operation through proceeds from subscriptions of its news service  (news, special reports, opinion pieces, photos) and sales of books. It also receives grants from non-state actors.  Editorial prerogative, however, is left entirely to MindaNews. 


MindaNews does not accept funds from politicians or domestic or foreign states for its fact-checking initiative. For the other operations of MindaNews as a media organization in the past two years, we have received grants from the National Endowment for Democracy and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which we use for coverage, staff compensation, administrative expenses and to train other journalists.


MindaNews Fact Check is supported by a grant from Internews.


Do you accept leads from the public for your fact-checking initiative?


MindaNews encourages the public to provide us with leads not only for potential fact-check pieces but other news stories as well of interest to the general public.



Our fact checks include this paragraph encouraging readers to be part of the process: “As with all our other reports, MindaNews welcomes leads or suggestions from the public to potential fact check pieces.”


MindaNews Fact Check - Methodology

What standards do you follow when fact-checking?


As a news organization, we strictly adhere to accuracy, fairness, balance, independence, accountability and transparency not just in our fact-checking initiative but in all other aspects of our work at MindaNews.


We abide by the Philippine Press Institute’s Journalist’s Code of Ethics. Since we became part of Internews’ Philippine Fact-Checker Incubator project, we have been striving to adhere with the IFCN Code of Principles, in step with our organization’s commitment to non-partisanship, transparency and fairness.


We fact-check a claim that is specifically claimed to be a fact and involved the public interest or the welfare of the people. We debunk false claims using official government records, journals or interviews with experts. 


We don’t fact-check opinions.

How do we fact-check?

Step 1: Team members monitor press conferences, speeches, statements, news, interviews, social media sites, etc. for statements worth fact-checking.


Step 2: When a claim is worth fact-checking, a team member looks for multiple sources to dispute the claim, including tracing the original source document.


Step 3:  Fact-checked claims are then submitted to the editor for copy editing and vetting. The link/s to debunk the claim are always included in the story.  


Step 4: A rating card is prepared to accompany the fact-checked piece, or infographics if needed, to immediately flag readers what the article is all about. 


Step 5: The senior editor takes another look before the article is posted on the website and social media accounts.

Correction Policy

Consistent with our vision and mission as a media institution, we rectify any error committed. If you spot a factual error, you may notify us thru editor@mindanews.com or our Facebook Messenger @Mindanews.


Correction Workflow


  • Errors pointed out are immediately brought to the attention of the editors and the fact-checking team. 


  • The fact-checker is immediately notified for verification. 


  • Once verified, the error is to be corrected within 24 hours and vetted before publication on the website. 


  • Readers will immediately know errors have been corrected through the Editor’s note posted above the article. 


  • The person who notified MindaNews about the error will be informed that the correction has been made.

About MindaNews

MindaNews is the news service arm of the Mindanao Institute of Journalism (MinJourn). It is composed of independent, professional journalists who believe and practice people empowerment through media. MinJourn, which is duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission with registration number CN201700385, is managed by its Board of Directors.

MindaNews values its journalistic independence. It started in May 2001 as a media cooperative and in January 2017 registered as a nonstock, nonprofit media organization.  We do not  accept funding from politicians, political parties or partisan groups.

Editorial staff

Fact-checking Unit: Romer (Bong) Sarmiento, Yas D. Ocampo

 

Mindanao Institute of Journalism

 

Board of Directors

President & CEO: Jowel Canuday, D.Phil. (oxon.)
Vice President: Romer S. Sarmiento

Members
Carolyn O. Arguillas, M.A.
Rhodora Gail T. Ilagan, Ph.D.
Amalia B. Cabusao (Doc Can.)
Robert D. Timonera
Ellen P. Alinea