Yellow journalists and their hao shao counterparts prematurely lit their torches and picked up their bolos to denounce the Duterte Administration for what they claimed to be an attack on the freedom of speech.
Jolted by Sunstar Baguio’s “kuryente” story which claimed that the Presidential Task Force On Media Security (PTFOMS) was planning to regulate mainstream media through a Magna Carta for Journalists, yellow journalists and hao shaos began calling on their hepatitis infested saint Cory to save them from losing the fortunes they had piled up through the prostitution of journalism.
The tililing rampage over the supposed looming curtailment of freedom of speech had even buzzed the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) — which used to focus on seeking justice for slain journalists but has since expanded to criticizing the Duterte administration. In a statement published also in Sunstar Baguio, the NUJP rejected the “Magna Carta” which it called a “threat to freedom of the press”.
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“We do not question the intent. But the proposed ‘Magna Carta’ which goes so far as to set salary grades depending on ‘competency’ is fraught with danger, not least of all allowing government to determine who can or cannot be a journalist, which is totally anathema to a profession that can thrive only in independence,” the NUJP statement said.
Whatever does the NUJP mean when it says it rejects setting salaries levels depending on competency?? Isn’t this the standard practice is ALL PROFESSIONS? Shouldn’t more competent professionals earn more than their less competent counterparts? Shouldn’t incompetent professionals be stopped from practicing their profession lest they cause damage or harm?
Wow! The entitlement in NUJP’s statement reeks to high heavens!
But, as it turns out, the so called Magna Carta for Journalists was neither being planned by the PTFOMS nor could it be called a measure.
PTFOMS Executive Director Usec. Joel Sy Egco, in a brief conversation a couple of days ago, told me that Sunstar Baguio had wittingly or unwittingly quoted him out of context when he was discussing possible solutions to labor issues plaguing the media industry.
“Sunstar reporter Jonathan Llanes and I were discussing problems faced by most reporters and other media workers like low wages, the lack of benefits, and other unfair labor practices. At a turn in the conversation, I mentioned that we were merely discussing with media partners aspects of a Magna Carta for Media Workers which focuses on labor concerns. This is different from the Magna Carta for Journalists introduced in congress and I strongly opposed this. The bill intended to dictate the level of wages which is preposterous! Moreover, i didn’t like the idea of some government agency deciding on who to accredit or not accredit as a journalist.” said Usec. Joel.
To prove Llanes had misquoted him on the discussion on the Magna Carta for Journalists, Usec. Joel sent me an audio recording of his conversation with the Sunstar Baguio reporter. Below is the transcription of this audio recording:
How do we address those vulnerabilities? Para patibayin yung industry. Hindi para alisin yung mga tao pero para patibayin, lagyan mo ng dignidad yung profession… Dati may Magna Carta for journalists, tinurn-down natin. Why? walang nakasaad kung magkano ang sweldo. Nire-regulate (ang industriya), ayaw ko din yun! Hindi mo pwedeng sabihin kung sino lang magpractice, accredit or not accredit. That’s wrong!”
He further explained that in his conversation with Llanes, he was discussing the idea of a professional certification for journalists and other media workers.
“This is not a new thing in media where you have electronic engineers, equipment operators, accountants, doctors, and other licensed professionals. We have to consider that while reporters, columnists, editors, and other media workers wield immense power and influence, some of them receive such a low pay — if they receive anything at all. So, you can only imagine just how huge the temptation is for them to write one sided stories or even completely fabricate details against people in exchange for money. I know because I was a journalist for almost all my working life and I was subjected to immense pressures more times than I care to count. But I managed to successfully resist writing unfair or inaccurate stories,” Usec. Joel went on.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, having also been a part of media industry, is keenly aware of the pressures that Usec. Joel talks about.
In seeking to implement President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders to enable legitimate journalists to practice their profession without fear harassment or threats of violence, Andanar instigated the creation of the PTFOMS which immediately investigates any reported threat to the life or safety of any Filipino journalist and provides security to any journalist under threat.
Beyond this, Andanar has also implemented projects and initiatives under the PCOO which seeks to provide vulnerable media workers with housing, insurance, and even assistance for health care.
Usec. Joel said he was instructed by Andanar along with another officer at the PCOO to look into solutions to address unfair labor practices in media.
Usec. Joel pointed out that one way to address unfair labor practices in the media industry is to first provide a means by which media workers can get certified or recognized for possessing the knowledge and skills essential to the practice of journalism.
He pointed out that professional certification could be the first step towards compelling media organizations to provide their media workers with decent salaries and benefits.
“The funny thing about journalism is that you can study the subject of journalism in school but that will not necessarily make you a journalist. Moreover, not all journalists studied journalism — some took up completely unrelated college courses like nursing or business administration and some didn’t even go to college but learned everything on the job.
“There are people in the broadcast industry who started out as drivers or production assistants and eventually became reporters or commentators. But so far, there is no way of gauging if their practice of journalism conforms to what journalism should be.” said Usec. Joel.
While there are organizations like the Philippine Press Institute or the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas that promote standards and practices for journalism, some sectors affected by unethical or non-standard news reporting complain that these organizations are ineffective in policing their ranks. Critics of these journalist associations say that the practice of media self regulation doesn’t work and all a rogue media organization has to do, for instance, is to choose not to be a member of KBP.
In a letter to Sunstar Baguio which seeks redress for an article which misquoted him, PTFOMS Executive Director Usec. Joel elaborated on the need for professional certification.
Such professional certifications, even licenses, are not completely foreign to those employed in the media industry such as electronic engineers, equipment operators, accountants, lawyers, and such.Why shouldn’t those who provide the substance which drives the media industry, through their craftsmanship and artistry, be given the benefits of being professionally recognized?In fact, certifications for journalists by various private organizations are being offered for fees amounting to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pesos! Amounts that are out of reach for the average media worker.
We contemplate a professional media worker certification that will be within easy reach for all of our media workers.
Moreover, media workers affect the reputations, lives, and livelihood of millions. We believe that along with such power, media workers must also accept accountability in line with the principle of delivering the greatest good to the greatest number of people — a crucial and core objective of all principles contained in various journalists’ code of ethics.