April 23, 2012 · Posted in: General
PRESIDENT AQUINO asked members of the Philippine press to be more accountable to their reading and viewing public by showing more balance and fairness in the selection and treatment of stories that they publish.
But in taking to task members of the Philippine media during the 2012 National Press Forum of the Philippine Press Institute at the Traders Hotel, the President skipped any mention of government’s own “accountabilities” to the media, such as the long-delayed Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that he had committed to push in 2010, or the continued murders and harassment of media.
In his keynote address before assembled editors, publishers and reporters, the President said that while some media outlets have been fair and balanced, not everyone adheres to the principle of “getting it first, and getting it right.”
“Nandiyan pa po kaya ang prinsipyo ng “get it first, but get it right,” o napalitan na ito ng “get it first, siguruhin na bebenta ang storya, at kung hindi tama ang impormasyon, mag-sorry ka na lang,” the President said.
(Do we still hold to the principle of get it first, but get it right, or has it been replaced by get it first, make sure the story sells, and if the information is not correct, just apologize later.)
The President cited as examples an earlier news report that was based on a tweet that alleged that the President was spotted shopping with a girlfriend in the Greenhills district on a workday. The President said the report was unfair, as a cursory check by media would have shown that he was locked up in a meeting with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that whole day to approve more than a hundred billion pesos worth of projects.
The President said the news reports that came out were particularly malicious, as it was made to appear that he was goofing off while the country was facing several major issues.
The President said that all the Malacanang reporters had to do to confirm the report was to peek out their windows to see if the Presidential convoy had left the Palace grounds. Unfortunately, the President said that at least one media outlet chose to run the story first, and then apologize for the error later.
The President also wondered why media outlets liked to highlight travel advisories issued by foreign embassies based in Manila, especially when these were negative in nature. The President pointed out that most of these travel advisories were made by diplomatic missions in Manila based on what they see in local print and television news programs.
On the other hand, the President cited other members of the media for fair and balanced reporting. In particular, the President cited the report published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that detailed progress in the efforts to clean up the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of its image as one of the most corrupt agencies in government.
“Hindi po ba napakabuti ng naidulot na pag-angat ng morale ng taumbayan dahil sa mga PCIJ report ukol sa tapat at malinis na mga proyekto ng DPWH, o ng mga ulat tungkol sa pag-angat ng ekonomiya ng ating bansa?” the President said.
(Isn’t it good for national morale to have reports such as those from the PCIJ about the honest and clean projects of the DPWH, or the reports about the improving economy of our country?)
PPI officials acknowledged the need for media to make itself more accountable through active policing of media’s ranks. In the open forum that followed the President’s speech, several speakers stressed the need for a more proactive media to ensure professionalism and ethical behavior, while at the same time parrying attempts by some sectors to impose government restrictions. One such proposal that has met stiff opposition from the media sector is the proposed Right of Reply bill that some congressmen want to piggyback on the FOI bill.
However, one news media executive, who asked not to be named, said it was not fair for the President to berate media without recognizing and acknowledging the government’s inability to meet its accountabilities to the fourth estate.
In particular, the media executive pointed out that the President still was mum on whether he was finally endorsing the long-delayed FOI bill. There was also no mention of government’s apparent inability to address the issue of violence against media, the executive said.