1. We the People. We the Media.

    A couple of days Patricia Evangelista in her column wrote: More than anything, the impeachment court is an attempt at accountability, to take account of men who are invincible for the sake of those who are not. The court’s power emanates not from the people, but from the court itself, from the faith of the public who live in fear and awe of gavels and robes. Once that faith is shaken, even the most formidable of justices cannot hand down decisions and expect to be believed.” Taken at face value, or in its most superficial of meanings, this statement makes sense. As does much of her column, which makes some good points. Respect is based on perception. But on a deeper level this is a ridiculous over-simplistic statement that belies the actual relationship between the Court, the Constitution, and the People. It misses an opportunity to elucidate and educate in favor of a rabble-rousing slickly reductive soundbite.

    John Dunn wrote: “When we speak or think of ourselves as living a democracy, what we have in mind is something far different. It is that our state, and the government which does so much to organize our lives, draws its legitimacy from us, and that we have the reasonable chance of being able to compel each of them to continue to do so.” The Court itself holds little power other than what the Constitution and thus the People grant to it. It is not about how citizens perceive the High Court (or the power contained within the Court), but how they understand its role within a country. The Power of the Supreme Court is handed down and delineated by the Philippine Constitution, that is basic Civics 101. It is the Constitution that gives agency to these entities; it is the Constitution that the Filipino supports. Actions like impeachment are mechanisms for the People to assert their authority over constitutionally empowered individuals. In its most basic component, impeachment is the avenue where-by the People, through their elected representatives, can weigh and study the merits of an individual continuing in government service. It is not a mechanism for constitutional retribution or judicial revenge. Government service is not a right, it is a privilege, especially when it comes to some of the highest positions in the land. What we are basically evaluating is whether someone is worthy of continuing to serve the Filipino people. It is the assertion of the Filipino people’s authority over a government they themselves empower with vast responsibilities. Responsibilities that touch on every aspect of a Filipino’s daily life. We forget, but the role of a Constitution and a Bill of Rights is not only to define the role of government, but to protect a people from the potential iniquities of those who are imbued with vast powers and authority (think of the Magna Carta).

    Evangelista’s statement also reflects on on-going discursive issue in the Philippines: Our preference to reduce to issues to simplistic soundbites, Us vs Them; Transparency vs Impunity; Awe vs Derision. In the case of the impeachment, we not only get overwhelmed by legalese and details, we lose the import of the proceedings through reductive binary relationships. The mechanism of impeachment is more than transparency, it is more than accountability, it connects intrinsically to the role of the People in a country and the relationship between a citizenry and its government. Yet, the role of the People in this impeachment and the Constitution has been little touched on; other than a brief statement by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile in his opening remarks and a few statements by talking heads.

    The public framing, by both media and the government, of the impeachment has been a concern. Though there have been attempts to do so, it seems to fail to connect the Filipino people to the proceedings and instead leaves us to agentless by-standers. A common refrain has been that the ‘poor’ can’t connect to the proceedings. Another misguided assertion that ignores the importance of a government cognizant of its role and responsibilities in providing service to the People.  As it is today, governance seems to operate at a distance from the people. Again, this is more than accountability, more than transparency, it is linked deeply to the role of government in the lives of Filipinos and how we relate to that government. But just as importantly, the way that the impeachment is being handled by journalists gives insight into the relationship between media and the Filipino people. Should journalists be educational? Should they attempt to provide deeper meaning to proceedings such as this?

    In our system, media members have become public intellectuals. It is a burden that they must bear, a responsibility they should own up to. In this instance, I think Evangelista failed to live up to that responsibility. She took the slick simplistic way out. That does not mean that all media has, in fact I have been impressed with the quality of the coverage of the minutiae of the case. It is controversial issues such as this that allow us to see the quality of media. Unlike the Supreme Court, the Executive, or Legislative, media survives on the respect of the people. Their power is derived from their ability to remain ethical, cogent, and inspirational. Our clicks, our views, our subscriptions, are our votes. Much like politicians, media pandering for attention does little to educate, and far more to degrade discourse. That is a loss for the People too.


  2. Rage of the Idiocracy

    An old-timer journalist once told me that the reason he went into journalism and education: They are the two occupations that can immediately positively influence and enlighten a people. Education is one of the most disruptive methods for breaking the cycle of poverty. It provides opportunity, it provides enlightenment, and it helps create a future for so many. Journalism, while may not be as capable of molding young minds and providing opportunities, is disruptive as well. It not only helps shape public discourse, it actually regulates and initiates discourse by laying the initial foundation for discussion. Media provides the space in which iniquities are uncovered and needs of a people are safeguarded. Thus, journalism, in any form, is a public trust. It provides a private counterpoint, a check and balance, to publicly elected officials. I would argue that Philippine media in general, in many instances, has failed to live up to those responsibilities. Instead of educating and informing, they have reduced public discourse to the lowest common denominator; playing on the edge of propaganda and even outright misrepresenting stories for the sole purpose of manipulating public sentiment. Media ethics have gone out the window in favor of rabble-rousing and the pursuit of the almighty sensational story. While we constantly decry the pervading sense impunity in government, what of the impunity of the media? There was once an old joke in the 60s that if we wanted to clean out the country, we should stick the enema hose in the National Press Club. That was in the 1960s, before Martial Law and the shuttering of independent media by a repressive government. Thankfully, with the end of Martial Law, media was rightfully given its freedom back; a freedom they should maintain. Apolinario Mabini once argued that "Freedom is the right to do good, not evil." I wonder.

    Journalists shape and inform public opinion, that much we can all agree upon. Occasionally, though they are the tail (tale?) that wags the dog. Public opinion is basically represented by the reactions of members in the media. This encompasses all forms of media; New and Old. Essentially they are basically the same, just different ways of sharing information and opinion. There is now this on-going debate concerning the difference between a citizen blogger and a journalist, and to what extent bloggers should adhere to journalist code of ethics and responsibilities. I would argue that in another milieu there is a substantial difference between the two vocations; much like how there is a significant difference between a historian and someone who writes about history. There is a rigorous methodology that separates the two; just like there should be a distinction between a ‘professional journalist’ and a ‘citizen journalist’ based on an expected fundamental quality of research and storytelling that is involved. However, in our situation we have had a blurring between the two precisely because our public media has been so remiss in following their own internal code of conduct and ethics. And in some ways our ‘informal’ journalists are even more respectable.

    The last year has provided many examples of the fallibility and impunity of media when manufacturing public discourse. Jaime Salazar, over at Pro-Pinoy, provided a cogent critique of media’s role in turning the CCP issue into an almost stupefyingly simplistic shouting match:

    "It is highly likely that this ruckus would not have swelled to its current proportions—might never have happened in the first place—had Pinky Webb, host of the ABS-CBN current affairs show “XXX”, refrained from framing Poleteismo, diminished to its details, as a commentary on the contentious RH Bill. (The sense of the verb “frame” as pertaining to false incrimination is useful here.)”

    Media created, then fanned, the angst and anger through polemic, almost yellow journalism, framing techniques. What was an opportunity to actively engage and discuss the important role of government in supporting art became a bitch and moan session between extremist positions; positions that media actively promoted and lapped up. Going back to the idea of journalists as educators and illuminators, nothing came other than an opportunity to enrage Filipinos and increase viewership. There was a real chance to bring art and its importance front and center in public consciousness; that was lost amid a wave of pervasive superficiality. In this instance, linking it to the RH Bill (another example of media manipulation and a lost opportunity to engage, enlighten, and educate) heightened tensions and gave birth to a volatile situation. 

    If nothing else, the RH Bill is another example of sensationalizing a story by reducing it to its most titillating components. We have seen the media at large almost completely fixate on condoms and sex (all issues that will wind up the Church), to the almost laughable exclusion of any of the other physical and cognitive developmental considerations. The upshot is a complete lobotomizing of public discourse. The anti-RH crew shouts decaying moral values and other gibberish, the pro-RH shouts anti-Church polemics. In the end, there’s just a bunch of shouting with little engagement and additional understanding.

    It is quite alright, and expected, for dyed-in-the-wool true believers to argue rhetorical points and hurl polemics. But to watch the broadsheets and television media to get into the act is damaging and, in a way, saddening. Instead of helping discover and explore the underlying issues, they get in on the act. And yes, I actually do support journalists, in their capacity as commenters and columnists, to argue a point and take a stand with integrity; meaning still maintaining a rigorous ethical grounding. But, let us not forget, there is a difference between column writing and reporting. Hence, the Editorial/Opinion page in a newspaper is separate from the rest of the newspaper. Bias will always be inherent in reportage; politics and political leanings will always infiltrate. The key is how rigorous the journalist is in trying to present a balanced (as in all sides) perspective on the stories of the day. Can we honestly say that is the case?

    One of the most obvious examples is the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation ‘scandal’ that recently erupted. That is clearly a situation of ‘wag the dog’ reporting. It was a story created by one or two journalists; a journalist with a known bias, who presently a highly biased view of the story. Key contextual elements were excised in favor of a pre-determined narrative. The PDBF story was framed as the traditional plucky underdog fighting the corrupt and unfair system who prevail against all odds. Ignored was the actual story behind their success; the fact that they had received almost Php60M over the last nine years; the fact that many of them had been active for almost eighteen years; or the fact that their performance came in ‘small boat’ competitions comprised of beginners. Forgotten in the story was the fact that the PDBF members purposefully chose to severe their ties with the PCS/PCO because their monthly training stipends were going to be reduced. Even in the case of Jeff Tamayo, his impolitic ‘ampao’ statement was referring to the muscles of old athletes. Any athlete with a modicum of honestly will admit that as they age their physical capabilities diminish. The word ‘ampao’ was taken out of context and purposefully used to discredit and denigrate. All of those details were eschewed in favor of more rabble-rousing and intellectual bankrupt reporting. Now the Senate is throwing in their two-cents to score political brownie points with their constituencies, with shrill bias along for the ride. Discourse continues to backslide. 

    What I remain curious about is where were the Senate Hearings and media outrage when Efren Penaflorida was named CNN Hero of the Year. Obviously, his advocacy would not exist, or at least would not be as needed as much, if education was functioning properly in this country. Indeed, that is far more damaging to the national interests than kayak and canoeing. Yet, this difference is the very point. Education, while outrageous on an intellectual level, does not pander to the mob mentality that is so prevalent in the Philippines. It is easy to reframe the PDBF story and accuse the system of being corrupt; it is even quite easy when there are readily available soundbites to be manipulated. But taking on the education system at large? It is much easier to praise and honor Penaflorida (as he should be, by the way), pat our collective selves on the back for producing such a brilliant and accomplished man, and go on our merry way ignoring the underlying situation.

    The case of the PDBF also becomes an instance of a worrying trend in Philippine media: A lack of investigative journalism on the part of various media outlets. The PDBF story was broken by ABS-CBN, almost immediately other journalists and media members jumped on the existing story. The did not do any new research, they did not try and dig into the story to reframe it or offer alternative views. Instead they just ran with the pre-existing narrative and tried their damnedest to raise the stakes. Passions became inflamed and the media not only fed on it, they fed it. The qualities of investigative reportage seem to be almost non-existent; except within a few small bastions of journalism (PCIJ for example). Other than that, too often major stories across the board very rarely deviate from one another. A reader can check GMA News, ABS-CBN, Inquirer, and the Philippine Star and invariably major stories, except with subtle differences in details and style, the framing and storytelling narratives are similar. Though, there are certain exceptions, such as rags like The Daily Tribune, but too often those operate more as a propaganda mouthpieces than anything else. And should be treated as such. Too often a ‘middle ground,’ an attempt to balance extremes and views is absent. There is an almost worrisome homogeneous, monolithic thinking that at times seems to pervade media in the Philippines.

    I fear that media may reflect society. That we are a nation that is most comfortable with superficiality and base polemics; in capable, unwilling, or possibly even unable to dig deeper into stories. Maybe we do need stories spoon fed to us in their simplest and easily digestible forms. That may well be true (though I do not think so); but that also acts as a cop-out for journalists and media members who are in a position to do something about it. That is akin to giving a pass to corrupt politicians because there is corruption extant in civil society. This is a case of responsibility weighs heavily on the shoulders of those who seek it. Much like men and women who seek public officer or government service, becoming a journalist carries its own public responsibilities that must be met. Failure to meet those responsibilities should not reflect on society at large; it should reflect on the journalist and his organization.

    Another old journalist once told me that media has to clean itself, before it can begin exhorting society and government to do the same. There is always the understanding that when journalists play in the muddy waters of politics, they will get a little dirty along the way as well. But there is a big difference between incidental politicking and active ‘envelopmental’ journalism. Though we would be remiss in pointing out that government and some politicians, for all their protestations to the contrary, do actively try and influence the media. Most visibly in our last regime through payoffs and plum positions in certain agencies and GOCCs for certain journalists and their families. Media can also be influenced through innuendos and not so subtly veiled threats; as we know the Philippines is the most deadly nation in the world for journalists; even ignoring the Maguindanao Massacre. There is a difference between censorship through threats of bodily harm and self-censorship as in the case of taking bribes and actively manipulating stories.

    Recently, ABS-CBN was nominated for an International Emmy for their coverage of the Manila hostage crisis. They took this as a vindication of their coverage last August. While no one should blame media for that tragedy, the media should also stop maintaining that they could not have conducted themselves more appropriately. At the time, we cited the BBC’s rigorous ethical guidelines for handling hijacking, kidnapping, hostage-taking and siege situations; actions on the ground and over the air of many media practitioners clearly violated those guidelines. Yet, at the time and still today, the Philippine media will maintain that they did nothing wrong. That sort of intractable position-taking actually damages the ability of media to properly cover these types of situations in the future. And media should be actively trying to see how they can better their own reporting for the benefit of the country. They are ‘trusted news sources’ after all.

    Trust and responsibility are integral parts of the vocation of a journalist. They are, in some ways, the public intellectuals of the twenty-first century and, as a result, are burdened with great public responsibilities. Where writers like Jose Rizal in the 19th century had to resort to essays and novels to shine a light on the frailties of their society, we have a free and empowered press to perform the same role. Even then, men like Rizal, Plaridel, Lopez Jaena et al, actively opened and supported newspapers to get their stories out. Granted they were propaganda organs, but it speaks to the enduring power of the press and its ability in any century, with only changes in modes of communication, to shape public discourse and debate.

    The press is a key line of defense in protecting public interests; they are empowered and trusted to do so. Journalism can bring down regimes and build them up as well. They can destroy men and build up heroes. Maybe in a sense, media does reflect society; maybe they do pander to the masses and play to the lowest common denominator. But, again, should that be what we expect of media practitioners? And more to the point, should that be what media practitioners expect of themselves. In the process of playing the ratings games and the drive for clicks and hits, media in the Philippines has lost some of its integrity. Physician heal thyself almost seems cliche at this point;  but it seems to still hold true. That requires a sense of self-reflection, something as well I wonder if media is will to do. We saw, as in the case of Alfred Yuson and his plagiarism, media and culture almost instinctively circle the wagons to protect their own; public interest and responsibility quickly forgotten. And while GMA News did decline to renew Yuson’s contract, a quick comparison between that reaction and those of the press during the Manny Pangilinan and Justice Mariano del Castrillo plagiarism scandals show a marked difference in coverage and concern.

    There are still great and amazing media practitioners out there; excellent analysts and journalists who stay true to their core beliefs, yet are not afraid to open up the discourse and objectively try and present all sides of the story. And even when bias seeps in, they should not be pilloried because of it. There should be an expectation that another media source is offering a slightly different view point. I will always have greater expectations for media practitioners; they have the tools and capacity to do so much good. It is why I admire ‘bloggers’ out there who hold themselves to high degrees of journalistic standards; even in excess of certain ‘journalists.’ They see that they are given an opportunity, and as a result have a responsibility, to uphold public trust and, in their own way, defend the Philippines.

    What we should worry ourselves with is when the story becomes the journalist; when their thoughts and feelings and personal beliefs become the primary drivers behind a story; when the journalist creates the story, just because they want to. Maybe some journalists in the country do have too much in common with the political brethren. When journalists see their position, not as a public trust, but as a bully pulpit from which they can twist stories, exacerbate situations, tear down men and build up heroes all for personal reasons, they have begun to act with similar impunity. Politicians sometimes see their positions as theirs by ‘divine’ right to do with as they please, I wonder if some journalists feel the same way about their space. I wonder if they have forgotten the part about upholding standards and protecting the public trust.

    Journalism is storytelling, it is a balancing act of various views and perspectives, and it always remains a public trust and an opportunity. That is both the difficulty and the beauty inherent in journalism; the way that tension is managed and a story is told ultimately illuminates the quality of the journalist; whether ‘citizen’ or ‘professional’ alike.


  3. ellobofilipino:

    Ah yes, envelopmental journalists. I must say, there are plenty of those in the country. You see them everywhere, from Luzon to Mindanao, from the cities to the municipalities. And yes, these people give journalism in this country a bad name. I must say though that the problem of envelopmental journalism is like the chicken and egg debate. Some journalists blame society for producing such species, while society also blames journalists for creating envelopmental journalists. In reality, it is difficult to say who started who and where it actually began.

    Back when I was still starting out with ABS-CBN, I had my first experience with an envelope just a few weeks after I started working with them. I didn’t see it coming because the bribe was placed inside a business card envelop. It was handed out to me so I took it. When I opened it I was surprised to find a P 1,000 bill. And my cameraman was also given the same. The person who gave it was red-faced when we gave them back. She told us that she gave those as a matter of procedure because some of the journalists actually expect to be given something just for visiting her.

    Humiliated, she tried to recover lost face by giving us brewed coffee and sandwiches. That of course, we accepted as usual acts of entertaining visitors. That was not the last time that I would experience such “hospitality.” I would also be given envelopes by other public officials in other government and business offices in my later years with the company. And as any self-respecting journalist would do, I returned them each and every time.

    The problem with envelopmental journalism though is that it actually transcends the envelope. There are government officials and corporate entities which actually give some media practitioners “gifts” in kind. And these gifts can range from gadgets to cars and even houses. Yes, some public servants and business magnates go to that extent.

    Other than the usual envelope and “in kind” bribery, it is also difficult to distinguish when and where a public official or corporation is actually paying off a media practitioner. Take for example Christmas and other holidays, or birthdays, some people actually give some journalists something for the reportage made of their offices. 

    And then there is the case of paid coverages. For those who do not know, a paid coverage is when a media organization is paid by a government agency or private corporation to cover a specific event and have that coverage aired or published. Strictly speaking, a paid coverage is the same as paying the media practitioner to write something nice about an office, right? That is advertising not journalism. But this practice is tolerated even in the country’s biggest news organizations because their advertising arm has signed a contract with the public official or private corporation, and for struggling news organizations, because they need the money.

    In a forum at the UP College of Mass Communications a year ago, I asked Prof. Yvonne Chua and veteran journalist Red Batario as to where one should draw the line, but they themselves found it difficult, especially in the case of community news organizations.

    I agree, media organizations must work to clean their ranks of erring and sometimes even fake journalists. In Mindanao, these fake journalists are called as tigbas, which is the Cebuano word for chop, since they visit government officials and business executive and ask them for money like they are chopping of the arms of the people in those offices. A lot of these tigbas boys actually just pretend to be journalists but when checked out, do not actually have any affiliation with any news agency whether on freelance or regular capacity.

    In some areas, erring journalists are called AC/DC or attack, collect; desist, collect. This means they attack a public figure or corporation in their stories or broadcasts then ask for something. When they get what they want they say something nice, then also get something for it. Most of these journalists are in either radio or TV broadcasting. And more often than not, they are the ones who get attacked or killed as a result of their practices.

    Tigbas and AC/DC journalists can be found everywhere from Luzon to Mindanao. While they may be the perversion of ethical and responsible journalism, their existence actually is a testament to the power of journalism in the country. It is the fear of public officials and private corporations of journalists that these disgrace to the profession feed on. Of course, they are able to feed off that until they are denounced and those they have deceived or attacked take matters into their own hands.

    But there are also journalists who do exemplary work in uncovering corruption in government, flawed corporate practices, and abuses committed by individuals and groups against silenced sectors. And some of the journalists who died in the line of duty in this country were also killed because of that. It is just sad that the profession has always been largely viewed as one of glamour, fortune, and power. What people fail to see is that journalism is not about being popular by being on TV or becoming rich because of that. It is people with motivations like these two who eventually distort the practice. Hell, if one pursues journalism because of that, he or she should just audition in some talent show. That’s where that person should be. 

    Journalism is about revealing the truth, and it is from the truth that its power is derived. It is about revealing the truth about the oppressed, the forgotten, and the silenced.

    Kim, thank you for sharing your personal experiences. I know there are a couple of bloggers floating around here who are interested in careers in journalism; I hope they take your advice to heart, as well as your actions as a guide, and consider why they are really getting into the profession. Because, you are absolutely right, unfortunately there are some who become columnists or commentators with the express purpose of becoming well known; and not necessarily being the conscience of the country.

    By the way, I have never heard the acronym AC/DC! Always thought that meant something else, and no not the band.

    Like you say though, we really do have some of the finest journalists in the world running around in the Philippines. And really, some of the bravest as well. For a purported free country and a free press, we seriously have little to be proud of when it comes to the state of protecting our press.

    I agree completely concerning the real journalists out there who are doing exemplary work, real investigative work. My hope is that, as the country starts pulling itself up out of its current morass, media will take a lead role in uncovering and bringing to light inaccuracies and illegalities in government and business. And government institutions will prove that they can not only bring to justice those who perpetrate crimes against journalists, but more importantly, protect them.


  4. ellobofilipino:

    Reporters Sans Frontieres has recently released its list of the safest and most dangerous countries for journalists.

    Out of 178 countries, the most dangerous for journalists are:

    1. Rwanda  
    2. Yemen  
    3. China  
    4. Sudan  
    5. Syria  
    6. Burma  
    7. Iran  
    8. Turkmenistan
    9. North Korea
    10. Eritrea

    While the top ten safest countries for journalists are:

    1. Finland
    2. Iceland
    3. Netherlands
    4. Norway
    5. Sweden
    6. Switzerland
    7. Austria
    8. New Zealand
    9. Estonia
    10. Ireland

    Immediately after the Emerald Isle is Denmark, followed by Japan and Lithuania. Germany is 17th on the list, while the United Kingdom is at 19th, followed by the United States and Canada. Spain is at the 39th, while France is at the 44th. Russia is at the 140th spot.

    Iraq is at the 130th, while Afghanistan is at the 147th.

    Closer to home, Hong Kong is at 34th, while Taiwan is at the 48th. Indonesia is at 117, while Cambodia is at 128th. Singapore is at the 137th, while Malaysia is at the 141st.

    According to the report, “the Philippines, Ukraine, Greece and Kyrgyzstan all fell sharply in this year’s index. In the Philippines this was due to the massacre of around 30 journalists by a local baron, in Ukraine to the slow and steady deterioration in press freedom since Viktor Yanukovych’s election as president in February, in Greece to political unrest and physical attacks on several journalists, and in Kyrgyzstan to the ethnic hatred campaign that accompanied the political turmoil.”

    The Philippines is at the 156th spot. And yet the public and several media practitioners delude themselves into thinking that the press in the country exercise too much freedom. Think again! 

    I have said this before and I will say it again, there is no genuine democracy where there is no free press.

    Thank you for this sir! And on the whole, I do agree with you.

    Outside of certain…biased…individuals I don’t think you’ll find many who actually believe our press has too much ‘freedoms’. Those who argue that are usually trying to hide something. As you well know, there can be no true freedom of the press when the fear of physical retribution hangs over the media.

    That being said, I do have certain ‘issues’ with the some members of the media. For me, the caveat comes with how some exercise those freedoms. There are media practitioners who abuse those freedoms and act in willfully irresponsible manners; whether its interjecting themselves into the stories (in essence becoming the story), flaunting long-held and sacred journalism standards, engage in yellow journalism (in the classic sense) or practicing envelopmental journalism. Those who act in that manner sully the proud profession that is journalism.

    I think the hostage crisis recently provided a striking example over how some members of Philippine media misconstrue their mission to provide balanced coverage of events. It becomes more striking when you understand the high standard and strict guidelines that international organizations hold themselves when it comes to handling crisis situations. And yes, part of that is the responsibility of the government to handle the media in times of crisis. But, like the BBC points out in their guidelines, even before government entities get involved there are certain things members of the press just do not do.

    The last nine years as well have provided ample examples of the pervasive rot in Philippine journalism: envelopmental journalism. I can cite the most egregious examples, but I think you know who they are as well. Self-censorship in the name of self-interest is a problem; one that undermines faith in the impartiality of media. And this isn’t really a new situation. One esteemed journalist (old-timer) wrote back in the 1960s that when the Philippines would need an enema the hose would be inserted in the NPC. Of course, he was going to war with the NPC at the time over an expose he ran on some anomalies there.

    Of course the situation among some press practitioners is a reflection of the corrupt nature of Philippine government and, yes, business.

    Again, this is not a criticism of the entire journalism industry. I firmly believe that the Philippine press is one of the finest in the world; the issues that they face on a daily basis just to execute the most basic of their responsibilities is heroic.

    But, there are a number of ‘journalists’ who instead of upholding the honor and integrity of the Philippine press, drag it down. Unfortunately, while they may be the minority, they provide those who would muzzle the media with ammunition to push their perverted agenda.

    As Anding Roces wrote in his farewell column, the media can be a pillar of Philippine free society and a beacon that guides this nation to greatness.

    It won’t until the peace and order situation is put in order and the safety of journalists practicing their profession is ensured. I mentioned earlier that some engage in self-censorship for monetary gains; others do as well just to stay alive. That is an untenable situation in a supposedly free society. Not to mention things like the FOIA being shot down, the lack of whistleblower protections, the failure to enact and enforce laws that protect anonymous sources, the complete and utter failure to crack down on death threats and murders. All create a situation in the Philippines that is less than free. As you and the Index rightfully point out. That is shameful and an embarrassment.

    You fix that and I am sure that those ‘media members’ (though I am loath to call them that) who engage willfully in unethical practices will disappear.

    Tagged #media #freedom

  5. ellobofilipino:

    Something from the Philippines Free Press which I think I can relate to considering that I am a Martial Law baby.

    I would like to share this as a way for the younger generation to appreciate that Martial Law was not a time in our country’s history when people simply go to the streets to overthrow a corrupt leader.

    Sure, months before the declaration there were streets protests almost on a daily basis in Manila, but then the declaration came, the student activists were nowhere to be found. Everyone knew that they could simply disappear and not be heard of again.

    Here’s what Charlson Ong shared with the Free Press:

    I was twelve when Martial Law was declared. Too young for activism but old enough to have followed Ronnie Nathanieslz’ live updates on demonstrations in Plaza Miranda over radio; to have read Pete Lacaba’s scintillating reportage on the ‘Battle of Mendiola;’ to have been fascinated by my elder brother’s accounts of teach-ins at the Ateneo and the U.P.; to be intrigued by the presence of firearms and Maoist literature at our neighbor’s bodega; and be captivated by Ninoy’s eloquent put downs of Marcos on TV.

    If I were older and in college, I too might have been caught up in the romance and rage of the times, gone to the hills when the time came to choose or settled down eventually to a comfortable mid-life with memories of the ‘First Quarter Storm’ and the ‘Diliman Commune.’ As it is I must contend myself with listening to the reminiscences of the ‘veterans’ of those days, feeling oddly that I had missed out on the most exciting period in this country’s post war history by a few years and increasingly convinced that our generation had been denied its place in history, had in fact become the subject of a most comprehensive, if not cynical, social experiment.

    There was Soc Rodrigo and his Kuro Kuro, sober and thoughtful, his Tagalog sublime. There was Ninoy, clean cut and chubby, showing us scenes from a fast growing Taiwan, saying how this country could similarly take-off once his Liberal Party assumed power. There was Eddie Ilarde on Student Canteen, Orly Mercado on Radyo Patrol, Akong on Kwentong Kutsero. There was my father staying up to the wee hours hoping to catch the x-rated flicks that communists propagandists were supposedly broadcasting clandestinely as part of their destabilization campaign. There was Yvonne centerfolded in Pic magazine, another publication whose early demise we truly mourned. There was the Quintero expose and the Jabbidah Massacre. There was Rossana Ortiz, Jessica, Saging ni Pasing all at the mini-theatre along Recto. There was Bayside, Wells Fargo, the Flame, and other joints along Roxas Blvd. where my elder siblings and uncles went to for booze, roulette and slot machines. Rock was heavy and grass was cheap. It was crass, vulgar, decadent and exciting.

    And then it ended. Not at once but sudden enough to catch the best of them off guard. I remember the tension that pervaded our household. The older people cautioned against discussing politics over the phone. School was suspended indefinitely and the streets, empty. Downtown Manila became a ghost town. The world had ended while we slept through the night of Sept. 22-23, 1972.

    To read the whole article do click the link above.

    It pains me to know that the youth these days have little understanding of how serous Marcos’ Martial Law was. I guess it is largely also due to the failure of the Philippine history teachers, student councils and movements, and the country’s educational institutions in general.

    To remember the Martial Law and its victims is not to espouse communism or activism, rather it is to make sure that Filipinos will never again allow a single person, family or class impose its will through violence upon the whole country.

    The imposition of Martial Law should also be recalled to remember those who took up the struggle to challenge the Marcos dictatorship in ways they found themselves best able to.

    Many among the youth of the country then offered their blood and lives so that freedom would be restored to this country.

    We should never forget!

    There was one story that I remember being told to me by a publisher at the time. The military had created a list of ‘subversive’ elements; those who were the most outspoken and should be brought in.

    He was in the office that morning when a friend came running in and told him and his staff to flee right now: the police and military were coming for them. They fled the premises and almost immediately after, the police stormed the office carrying their lists of targets.

    They got away, but other prominent media men were not so lucky. The crackdown against the media had begun.

    Something to remember today: What the curtailing of media freedoms really entails. And the awesome responsibility that the media has.

    They are the voice of the people. That is why Marcos went after them first.


  6. In cases of hijacking, kidnapping, hostage taking and sieges we must be aware that anything we broadcast or publish may be seen or heard by the perpetrators, both in the UK and overseas.

    It is important that we report demands in context. We should also consider carefully the ethical issues raised by providing a platform to hijackers, kidnappers or hostage takers, especially if they make direct contact. We must remain in editorial control of the reporting of events and ensure that:

    • we do not interview a perpetrator live on air.
    • we do not broadcast any video and/or audio provided by a perpetrator live on air.
    • we broadcast recordings made by perpetrators, whether of staged events, violent acts or their victims, only after referral to a senior editorial figure.
    • we install a delay when broadcasting live material of sensitive stories, for example a school siege or plane hijack. This is particularly important when the outcome is unpredictable and we may record distressing material that is unsuitable for broadcast without careful editing.

    When reporting stories relating to hijacking, kidnapping, hostage taking or sieges we must listen to advice from the police and other authorities about anything which, if reported, could exacerbate the situation. Occasionally they will ask us to withhold or even to include information. We will normally comply with a reasonable request, but we will not knowingly broadcast anything that is untrue. The police may even request a complete news black-out. The BBC procedure for dealing with such requests must be followed.

    In listening to the Tulfo protestations concerning the actions of media members during the hostage crisis was reminded of this.

    While this may be late to the discourse, I do not find the argument of media needing to report all sides of the story holds any water. And those journalists who continually try and shift focus and apportioning of responsibility away from media are doing a disservice to future coverage of hostage-taking.

    This is no longer about the here and now, it is ensuring that situations such as this do not happen again. Protestations to the contrary and refusals to engage in self-analysis (for all parties) ensure that this will not be a one-off event; but something we may see again.

    Entities which are cognizant of their responsibilities have clear-cut guidelines for coverage and journalistic integrity. They police themselves. Note that the above BBC guidelines lay out specific rules separate from what entities in authority request.

    The words of Apolinario Mabini were not only targeted towards government or individuals; it is applicable to entities in positions of responsibility as well. Freedom is not the right to do as you please.

    I am a staunch advocate of the freedom of the press. But freedom must be tempered with an understanding of responsibilities and effects of actions. My critiques of this specific incident should not be equated to a desire to abrogate the freedom of the press. Far from it. It is a hope that, as the press requests for government and politicians to engage in responsible decision making, so to should the press be a leader in this regard. As one of the deans of Philippine journalism said; the press can not only be a pillar of a free society, it can be one of the guiding lights for the future.

    PS: This saving lives vs ‘keeping people informed’ is a BS line of thinking. The question is whether they should have been live with the guy in the first place, not if they were asking the right questions.

    Of course they are not going to know what they say. They weren’t trained for this. Which is kind of the point.