^^^ And again in the mdoern age when media is Big Media, like all big industries we cannot and we should not trust Big Media to police itself. Media already takes upon itself the task of telling the entire world what is and is not newsworthy, and to present it as they see fit, and to give or not give an equal amount of space for rebuttals and exhonerations. While that may all be fine and good and consistent with our liebral democracy, onyl a fool would not see the veryr eal dangers inherent thereunto. No one elects the media into office, and no one outside of their own owners and proprietors decide what makes the news, and what treatment it is given, especially for opinion writers. And it is the same everywhere regardless of whether it is print, broadcast or online. Why do you think media has often been referred to as the "Fourth Estate" of government? And yet they are ultimately accountable only to how many copies and ad space they sell, not to the people, certainly not to something as nebulous as truth and justice. Since Big Media is a business, it must be regulated, perhaps even strictly so since their business could ruin a man whether he deserve that ruin or not. We do not let alcohol, tobacco, firearms, pharmaceuticals, telcos run amuck if we can help it. Why should Big Media be thus exempt?
“It is a long arduous wait for justice and freedom.”
Thus describes former UP Collegian editor Ericson Acosta’s nearly two years of detention in the Calbayog sub-provincial jail in Samar.
The worldwide observance of International Day for Imprisoned Writers initiated in Manila by the Philippine Center of the International PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) highlighted the cases of Acosta along with those of Regina Mart├*nez, a Mexican journalist (murdered); Shiva Nazar Ahari, journalist, human-rights activist and blogger (Iran); Muharrem Erbey, a human-rights lawyer and writer from Turkey; Eskinder Nega, a journalist and blogger (Ethiopia).
Acosta was arrested without warrant on Feb. 13, 2011, by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 34th IB led by 2nd Lt. Jacob Madarang. He said he was doing research on the human rights situation in Samar.
He was held for three days without charges and subjected to “tactical interrogation” by the military. Three days after arrest in which no charges were filed, he was finally charged with illegal possession of explosives.
Visited in his Calbayog detention jail, Acosta describes his life in jail since February 2011.
He says his day starts with lining up for the day’s ration of uncooked rice and ends with trying to finish—usually with agonizing difficulty—a blog entry, a statement or a poem.
The toughest part of being in prison, he says, is being deprived of liberty and being away from family and the peasant communities he has long considered family.
“I always try to keep busy by initiating educational discussions with co-prisoners, and even doing literacy classes inside the cell. I read all the books with me listening to music on radio, play chess in between swatting flies and mosquitoes.”
The latest book in his detention cell is “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir.”
He spent his 39th and 40th birthdays in jail and is about to spend his second Christmas in jail this year.
“Each month I think has its own episode of anticipating a scheduled visit that does not happen; of being threatened by military guards in extremely trashy language; of feeling absolutely helpless in the face of personal health issues, given the continuing refusal of the authorities to bring me to the nearest medical facilities for a long overdue checkup.”
Acosta says he takes on the simple joy of seeing his parents and his only son, Emmanuel, and sharing modest food with other prisoners. He spent his 40th birthday last May sharing pancit with activists.
It was in that birthday that he felt his health was deteriorating. “It was hard trying not to feel bothered. Gradually you feel the gloom of lost youth.”
He says his 20 months in an isolated jail in Calbayog, Samar, has been a test of resilience.
Acosta is one of the subjects of the documentary “Chained Metaphors,” about imprisoned artists.
He was also named finalist for the Imprisoned Artist Prize at the Freedom to Create Awards Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, along with two other artists from Tibet and Myanmar. The finalists were chosen out of over 2,000 nominees from 145 countries by a select jury that included actress and filmmaker Daryl Hannah, novelist Salman Rushdie and ballet icon Mikhail Baryshnikov
The case of Acosta was taken up in the Philippine writers’ forum in a panel of distinguished writers from the Philippine PEN Writers in Prison Committee, such as Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature and chair of the Philippine Center of the International PEN; and PEN board members, critic and columnist Elmer Ordo├▒ez and fictionist Jun Cruz Reyes.
The cultural sector, led by Lumbera, actors Pen Medina and Nanding Josef, filmmaker Carlitos Siguion Reyna and UP dean of Mass Communications Rolando Tolentino, has rallied behind Acosta and signed a petition for his release.
TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines — Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who led his country in its transition from communist rule to democracy, called on the Filipino media, on Sunday, to help shape the future of the Philippines.
The role of the media today is to “provoke discussions on how this new era will evolve,” according to Walesa, a 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who gave the closing speech at the 9th Media Nation conference here.
This year’s media summit gathered over 70 Filipino journalists from print, radio, television and Internet-based news organizations taking an honest and a critical look at media corruption, its causes and impact on national life.
“I am pleading with you to continue the discussions so you can find the answer to those questions,” Walesa said.
These questions would revolve around what freedom must be founded on to find the answer to “what the new era will look like,” he said, speaking through his interpreter Josef Sarach, in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer reporters and editors.
Walesa, who became known for launching the 1980 campaign for workers’ rights and the Polish revolution that brought down the communist regime in Poland, was elected president in 1990.
“My revolution and my victory depended so much on media, that’s why I see the solution through media,” he said.
But while he continued to fight for “freedom of work and media,” Walesa threw back the question to members of the press: “What about responsibility?”
Walesa said corruption in media “can be very destructive” and has been everywhere.
“I do not know a country where there is no corruption. It can only be smaller or bigger … We shouldn’t allow it.” he said.
Walesa said the media had the power “to build but can also destroy freedom.”
He said when he was president he had his own gripes against media “who tried to destroy lead to conclusions that were unjust.”
Walesa said he had seen people falsely accused. “Things that are not true are being carried by the media. This can destroy the politicians and the economy,” he said.
Other media people, he said, resort to inventing accusations for monetary consideration or falling for politicians who pay reporters.
But while false reporting must be guarded, Walesa said this should not mean infringement of the freedom of speech.
“What to do is to stop (corruption in media) but not (to) allow censorship. You do not limit freedom,” he said.
He said the Polish media, which became free after democracy was established, had yet to fulfill this.
“But slowly we can work it out so we can put freedom together with responsibility,” he said.
MANILA, Philippines—The brothers Ben, Raffy and Erwin Tulfo of the TV5 show “T3” have been charged in a Quezon City court with grave threats for threatening celebrity couple Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto on national television a day after their eldest brother Ramon figured in an airport brawl with the couple in May.
Six months after the incident, assistant city prosecutor Rowena Balagtas recommended the filing of charges against the three brothers, whose show was also suspended for three months by the Movie Television Review and Classification Board because of their on-air remarks.
Charges of grave threats were lodged against the Tulfos—two counts each for Erwin and Raffy, one count for Ben— in the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court on Friday. Their brother Ramon is an Inquirer Metro columnist.
Balagtas noted that the respondents’ demeanor, tone and facial expression indicated that “the threats were made with deliberate purpose of creating in the minds of the persons to whom [they were] addressed the belief that the threats would be carried into effect.”
“The threats uttered by the respondents alluded to the infliction of physical harm upon the complainants (Santiago and Barreto).… The threats were consummated as soon as complainant spouse heard the statements of the respondents on TV on May 7, 2012,” the prosecutor said in a resolution.
Balagtas, however, dismissed the slander complaints against the Tulfos for lack of merit.
The case stemmed from a May 6 brawl between Ramon Tulfo and the couple, who were then travelling with an entourage, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. It all started when Claudine confronted Ramon for taking a video of her as she was complaining to an airline employee.
According to the complaint, the couple caught the “T3” program the following day and heard Ben, Erwin and Raffy lashing out at the couple in defense of their brother.
Raffy was heard telling the couple in Filipino to “pray and light a candle from now on” lest they cross paths at the mall. Erwin purportedly said: “We’re not yet done, Raymart. Just wait for it. Wait for the terrible vengeance of the Tulfos (lintik na ganti ng mga Tulfo).”
Ben allegedly added: “I go up against criminals, murderers. You seem to be a good fellow, but if you like we can meet and lock ourselves up in a big warehouse. Ambulances will be waiting. There will only be one man left standing. Let me see how good you are.”
In her resolution, Balagtas also noted that the Tulfos failed to appear and submit counter-affidavits despite being notified of the preliminary investigation of the complaint.
^^^ For media folks who always bellow about following the law in full letter and spirit that last line is truly a kicker. It seems when they are the ones being charged they think the law does not apply to them. Don't these guys always make it a point to point out things like failing to appear in a case a huge sticking point in all of their self-aggrandizement and pdeuso-populist rhetoric? E sila pala mismo pareho lang ang guali sa lahat ng mga binabatikos nila...
President Aquino addressed a conference of journalists meeting in Tagaytay City last Friday and—judging by the news headlines the following day—spent his time not scolding the media. This was news, because only the previous week the President had choice words for the Kapisanan ng Mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas. At the 9th Media Nation conference, Mr. Aquino chose to limit himself to only two points. The points were substantive; unfortunately, he failed to speak directly to one issue consuming journalists across the country.
The President first spoke about “the need for consistent standards in media”—and, really, how can anyone argue with that? “Like any profession imbued with public interest, at the heart of skepticism or even hostility [to the media, Mr. Aquino explained] lies the question of conflicts of interest.” We can follow his argument, because it is one that many in the working media have already raised. The media profession will benefit as a whole if, say, gift policies were not so much standardized (that would be an impossible and frankly unnecessary task) but rather aligned. In the broadcast industry, for example, the caps on gifts that a journalist may legitimately receive range from P300 to P2,500.
President Aquino then spoke directly on the conference’s theme: corruption in media. He was right to begin by emphasizing the greatest point of vulnerability (his words are worth repeating in full): “The reporter bears the brunt of having to find stories, source information, and craft the reports that find their way to our countrymen. Given the hard work they do and the high standards everyone should demand of them, it becomes legitimate to ask whether their pay and benefits are commensurate to the highest standards of integrity demanded of them.”
On these “two broad areas” the President chose to highlight, we can find much to consider. To be sure, his treatment of standardization and corruption was necessarily brief; it is not only reporters and correspondents, for example, who are vulnerable to corruption, but everyone in the newsmaking chain, including editors in the newsroom and cameramen in the field.
But we expected the President to say something about the extrajudicial killings of journalists, especially given that last Friday was the third anniversary of the Ampatuan, Maguindanao, massacre. But all President Aquino said about that was contained in one paragraph, the first half of which read: “In cases of media killings, for example, we in government are demanding the apprehension of suspects and the filing of charges that stick, resulting in justice for all involved. In other cases of violence involving media, we have taken affirmative and just action.” And that, basically, was it.
While there can be no argument that the President’s focus on solid evidence-gathering and resolute prosecution is important, we cannot understand his decision not to train the spotlight on the massacre, on the very day the country needed reminding.
As head of government, the President may think some of his regular critics have co-opted the fateful anniversary for their own. But even if they have—and it is crucial to note that they have not, that media organizations around the country see the quest for justice in the Ampatuan massacre as a crucial test case of the administration’s resolve in the campaign against impunity—it is still incumbent on the President to mark the anniversary in a fitting way.
Because he is also head of state. He represents the entire nation, including the very critics he apparently does not want to have anything to do with (and, frankly, do not want him to represent them). It is that role that requires him to regularly remind us of the horrors that haunt our history; a sorry list that includes the nightmare that was martial law and the unmoderated greed that characterized the Arroyo years.
But “never again” is a battle cry that applies to the Ampatuan massacre as well; President Aquino’s failure to sound the alarm this year is a deafening, inexplicable, silence.
Big money is about to descend once again upon the media industry, if it hasn’t already. Election campaign seasons always bring the industry a windfall, via both legitimate political ads and illicit payments to buy favorable coverage from members of the press. The magnitudes are now so staggering that in the last election year of 2010, the recreational services sector, which includes the broadcast industry, leaped from the previous year by a zooming 30.4 percent in our gross domestic product (GDP) accounts. To show how unusual this was, the growth rate stabilized back to 7.2 percent in 2011, and had ranged from only 3 to 11 percent in the past decade (with that previous peak also posted in the election year of 2007).
But it’s not only politicians who pay the media, legitimately or otherwise. Business interests promoting their particular product, or lobbying for or against a particular policy (sin taxes being the latest example), are known to pay big bucks to get their way. And like the handlers of politicians, their public relations units know the tricks of the trade only too well—including anything from free rides and trips, raffles where everyone wins a valuable prize, free product samples “for review,” lavish gifts, and up to regular deposits made to one’s ATM bank account (rendering the phrase “envelopmental journalism” pass├ę, giving way to the new de rigueur tag of “ATM journalism”).
Last weekend saw media practitioners gathering in Tagaytay for the 9th Media Nation conference, which has become an annual occasion for self-examination. It was remarkable in its choice of the highly sensitive theme of corruption in the media. Together with transparency champion Vince Lazatin, I was tasked to trigger discussion on the question “How can we push media corruption out of the market?” We posited that media ethics and integrity (or lack of it) are basically a cost-benefit proposition. While usually an economist’s tool, cost-benefit analysis is a universal (often subconscious) principle that governs the choices all of us make—fully recognizing that not all costs and benefits are measured in pesos and centavos.
As for media ethics and integrity, the benefits and costs may be examined at two levels: the aggregate/public level and the individual/personal level. At the public level, what does it benefit society to have a professional, independent and honest media? I can think of at least three social benefits. First is upholding the truth—about public policy issues and about individuals or objects. This presupposes that upholding truth is a universally held value that everyone sees as a benefit, at least at the societal level. The truth, after all, guides us to the right choices in life.
A second benefit is that of having the “right” public policies prevail. To my mind, “right” policies are those that promote the greatest good for the greatest number (now also fashionably called “inclusive growth”), as against what I call—for lack of a better term—oligarchy-perpetuating policies. Sin taxes and the competition policy are examples that provoke intense debate and unleash substantial lobby money directed at both policymakers and opinion makers in media.
The third public benefit is attaining a level playing field, against gaining unfair market or electoral advantage that biased reporting can easily achieve for anyone willing to pay the price. Among other things, such level playing field in the economy is a basic prerequisite to providing an attractive investment climate for all enterprises—domestic or foreign, large or small—which in turn promotes wide job-generation. In the arena of politics, better governance will more likely emerge where a level playing field ensures that election results are not driven by money and access to media.
What are the public downsides of having media ethics and integrity? I see none. On the other hand, it is so much easier to list the downsides of having a corrupt media, as these are the exact opposites of what we have listed above: a society built on falsehoods, policies that perpetuate our unusually oligarchic economy and society, an investment-starved (hence job-starved) economy, bad leaders and bad governance, and so on.
Unfortunately, the cost-benefit balance is dramatically different at the personal level for the media practitioner. The benefits of maintaining one’s integrity include personal fulfillment and a clean conscience, uncompromised integrity and respect from others, high stature in the profession (perhaps), and (hopefully) greater marketability and with it, higher (formal) compensation. The last two are not even assured, and the first two, as they say, are hindi nakakain (cannot be eaten) when the media worker’s primary concern may be his/her family’s very survival. What are the costs of keeping clean? Media Nation participants attested to fabulous material benefits in various forms that one would have to trade off for integrity. They also mentioned losing access to valuable sources of information needed to perform well on the job. This comes with being ostracized by their peers, 85-95 percent of whom they estimate to be “playing along.”
What do we do, then, when the net social benefits of media integrity are so large, and yet the net private benefits for the individual media practitioner are so small (even negative)? For as long as media integrity is a public good that no one wants to pay for, we will never have enough of it. And herein lies the puzzle that even well-meaning media practitioners could not solve in one weekend in Tagaytay. The work, they agreed, will be long and hard. What heartens me is that the group vowed to take it on.
Do journalists, generally speaking, earn higher salaries than civil servants? The pattern of views I heard at the Media Nation conference over the weekend, which dwelt on corruption in the media, suggests that the reality is dramatically different—especially in the provinces.
In fact, almost everyone at the conference agreed that “local” journalists (a label, by the way, that many of those working in provincial newspapers or radio stations despise as insufferably Manila-centric) are more vulnerable to corruption. A large part of the reason is their economic situation.
It should be self-evident, of course, that economic need alone does not explain the prevalence of corruption, in media or in other sectors. The knowing reader or viewer can easily name a handful of already wealthy media personalities for whom corruption is (or looks to be) a way of life.
But if the testimony of veteran media professionals is any guide, need can drive the desperate to extremes.
Only a few journalists from the provinces were able to take part in the conference: one intrepid community journalist from Mindanao and several correspondents based in Luzon. The Media Nation organizers were not able this time around to raise enough funds to cover still-prohibitive airfare costs for participants from the Visayas and Mindanao. (That last year’s conference was held in Cebu helped attendance then too.)
But despite their absence—or perhaps because of it, because many of the delegates were acutely conscious that something vital was missing—the plight of provincial correspondents and especially of community journalists was frequently at or near the center of discussion.
The few who did make it did not fail to remind everyone else about what it is that they and their kind really face in the field: Many correspondents work without a written contract. Many reporters do PR work, especially for those who can afford to hire them: namely, politicians. Many newspaper owners in the provinces do double duty, as reporter and sales executive, just to make ends meet. Many radio block-timers resort to so-called package deals. And many work without the assurances that government employees in very many government agencies already take for granted: a steady salary, a structured scheme of bonuses, a system of health and insurance benefits.
The kind of anecdotes shared at the conference was telling: In the last election, for example, a journalist-turned-campaign-press-officer was shocked to find journalists in a particular town, both legitimate and illegitimate, quite literally hound a candidate for doles. In one incident, the candidate had to hide from the pressing horde in a toilet, and even there the hungry hands followed him.
In a city in northern Luzon, it is not uncommon to see a reporter bring his girlfriend to a press conference once or twice and then, some time later, to find that girlfriend bringing her own tape recorder and notebook to another news conference: Without training, without vetting, indeed even without an outlet to write for, the girlfriend had become a reporter.
But here’s the thing. These anecdotes aside, the stark reality that journalists in the provinces suffer through reaches all the way to the national capital too.
The sad fact is, the compensation-and-benefits arrangements available at established and profitable publications like the Inquirer and BusinessWorld or in the giant networks like ABS-CBN, GMA and TV5 are the exception, not the rule. (And even then problems remain.)
So, no. Generally speaking, journalists are not better paid than civil servants.
* * *
After the conference, I and others from the Inquirer were able to interview Lech Walesa—the mustachioed union organizer who famously co-founded the Solidarity movement in Gdansk, won a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 40 and helped hasten the end of communist rule in both Central and Eastern Europe. The second president of Poland served as the closing keynote speaker.
When it was my turn, I used my time with the self-described “last revolutionary” and devout Catholic to talk popes and cardinals.
I was especially intrigued by his relationship with Pope John Paul II. “Of course I was very, very close,” Walesa said. “We could understand each other without a word.”
“If not for him, we would not end the era of communism in Europe,” he said, speaking through his interpreter, Jozef Sarach, a Polish national who has been living in the Philippines the last 27 years. “He told us not to be afraid. The rest we have done.”
About Pope Benedict XVI, the great John Paul’s German successor, he said: “A new pope, who is for this era. But we have to learn how to listen to him.”
And when I asked him if he had a message for the new cardinal archbishop of Manila, his first words were: “I want to give my bow.” He said he looked to the new cardinal for answers to pressing problems of both Church and country: “I hope he will find the solutions.” And he offered a word of advice: “Today, our faith has to be brave … but [must] also notice the problems outside the faith.”
His hair and his famous moustache having turned pure white, Walesa today looks positively avuncular—the benign, wisecracking relative at family gatherings. The image goes well with his natural gift for down-to-earth metaphors: democracy is either all or nothing; it’s like pregnancy, “you can’t be a little pregnant.” Or his approach to problem-solving: as in weightlifting, you need to start with smaller weights.
I must say, though, that the best question thrown at him came from GMA’s Jessica Soho: You were an angry young man then, “are you still angry?”
“I am still angry,” he said. There is still so much injustice in the world.
MANILA, Philippines - The House committee on public information will again attempt a vote today on the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.
The measure seeks to give the public and the media wider access to government documents.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, committee chairman, expressed optimism yesterday that his panel could resolve four remaining contentious issues and vote on the bill.
“These are major issues which are critical components of the proposed FOI law. I hope that we can come up with a report that will uphold the bill without surrendering the mandate of the state and public officials and employees to protect national interests,” he said.
He said the four remaining issues are the proposed inclusion of a right of reply, safeguards against the exercise of the people’s right to information, exemptions from disclosure of official information and documents relating to national defense and security and national interest, and inclusion of private corporations and other entities in the coverage of the FOI bill.
It is Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino who is demanding that the bill include a right of reply provision, which would compel media organizations to use the replies of aggrieved parties with the same space or airtime and prominence as the perceived adverse stories.
Authors of the FOI measure are suggesting that the right of reply be contained in another draft piece of legislation, since the FOI bill deals with giving the public and the media greater and easier access to state documents.
As for safeguards against the exercise of the people’s right to information, Evardone said it was former actress-turned-congresswoman Lani Mercado-Revilla of Cavite who suggested that these be included in the FOI bill.
“But we have yet to agree on what those safeguards would be,” he said.
Regarding the exemption of information on national security and national interest from disclosure, he said Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casi├▒o and other militant lawmakers fear that Malaca├▒ang might use this to cover up for or suppress information about human rights violations.
Evardone said the proposal to include private companies, organizations and other entities in the coverage of the FOI bill came from Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo.
“If we agree to disagree on these issues, then the FOI bill will remain in limbo. We might run out of time to endorse it and for the House to consider it,” he said.
During the committee’s last meeting two weeks ago, Antonino questioned how a technical working group chaired by Quezon Rep. Erin Ta├▒ada, the FOI bill’s principal author, consolidated at least 15 FOI measures, accusing the Quezon congressman of “rejecting” his bill and “giving preference” to Malaca├▒ang’s inputs on exemptions.
Ta├▒ada responded that his panel considered Antonino’s FOI version but that it could not decide on his right of reply proposal as this was within the committee’s jurisdiction.
After sparking what seemed to be an interminable debate, Antonino moved for adjourning the meeting by invoking the House rules, which ban committees from continuing to meet when the chamber is already in session.
Senate ready to fast-track FOI as 'POGI' - Honasan
By: Karl John C. Reyes, InterAksyon.com
November 27, 2012 8:14 PM
MANILA, Philippines - The Senate is ready to fast-track the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill and work with the House of Representatives to ensure that it will soon become a law, according to Sen. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media.
Honasan said they will work on the legislation as the "People's Ownership of Government Information" - or POGI.
“At the Senate, we will continue working with all the members of the Chamber to hasten and complete the passage of the People’s Ownership of Government Information (POGI) also known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOI),” Honasan said on Tuesday.
The senator congratulated the House Committee on Public Information "for finally approving the FOI bill at the committee level and endorsing it for plenary consideration, interpellation and debates."
Earlier, the committee chaired by Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III was able to convince panel members to approve the committee report on the FOI bill and send it to the floor for plenary debates.
Honasan likewise praised advocates of the FOI bill for their "relentless efforts" in campaigning for the passage of the proposed measure.
“We also congratulate the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition and all other champions fo the FOI whose untiring and relentless efforts have won us this victory,” Honasan concluded.