Leo says yes, this is true, but it isn't something to worry about. Both Apple and Android require that developers request permission to do things on the smartphone. Apps can request to have access to the phone dialer, texting, microphone and more. It does cause concerns among users primarily because they don't know why these apps are requesting such permissions. For example, in order to use Facebook Messenger to make a phone call or send out a text, the app needs access to the phone's operating system to do it. Otherwise the app won't have that functionality. Does it mean Messenger would send messages on its own? It could, but it's not going to.
When we install applications on our computer, we don't have as much control. Applications have always been able to do whatever they want. It's only coming to light now because applications are being explicit about what access they need. The news media are just trying to use this to generate clicks.