by Cong B. Corrales
MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS voiced apprehensions over a bill filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada creating a media “super body” that would provide accreditation for journalists in the country.
Under the Magna Carta for Journalists, Senator Estrada proposed the creation of a Philippine Council of Journalists or PCJ that would serve as “a development center for journalism and at the same time act as a self-regulatory body for journalists and the journalism profession.”
Interestingly, Senator Estrada filed Senate Bill 380 regulating the media industry barely fourteen years after his father, ousted President Joseph Estrada, personally launched an advertising boycott to try to cripple two major newspapers for allegedly abusing the principle of the freedom of the press.
Under the bill, the PCJ will conduct “Professional Journalist Examinations” which will then be the council’s basis in classifying local media practitioners as “accredited journalists and non-accredited journalists.”
However, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippine expressed apprehensions over the proposal, saying it would lead to “journalists, wittingly or unwittingly, discriminating against each other.”
NUJP national chairperson Rowena Paraan said journalists should also not be required to apply for accreditation, whether through a state agency or through peer accreditation.
“We have said it before, when Mr. Estrada filed this same bill during the 14th Congress, we cannot subscribe to the notion of subjecting journalists to accreditation for purposes of regulating the profession,” Paraan said in a statement posted in the NUJP website.
According to Estrada’s proposed measure, representatives of the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Press Photographers of the Philippines (PPP), Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PAPI) and the Federation of Provincial Press Club (FPPC), will comprise the supposed “media super council.”
Paraan rues that “NUJP — which Mr. Estrada proposes for membership in the PCJ — works for the safety and welfare of Filipino journalists and media workers. We have never seen it as one of our role to judge who is fit or unfit to be a journalist.”
Revitalized in 1986, NUJP has consistently fought and advanced the interests of the local press by promoting free expression, free press and access to public information.
“Given the deteriorating state of media welfare, we also fear this would give employers even more leeway to reduce or even deprive their media staff of the wages, benefits due them and the right to collectively bargain through a union,” said Paraan.
It can be recalled that the then-beleaguered Joseph Estrada led an advertising boycott against Philippine Daily Inquirer which was critical to the Estrada administration. Two other Manila-based broadsheets—Manila Times and Daily Tribune—eventually folded up for economic reasons during Estrada’s term.
In a phone interview, veteran-photojournalist and Cagayan de Oro Press Club Board Director Froilan Gallardo said that national government should zero in its efforts towards providing legislated infrastructure for information to be made accessible to its constituents.
“We certainly do not need another ‘super council’ which will definitely be controlled by government. Instead they should concentrate on passing necessary legislation which will ensure people’s access to information,” said Gallardo.
Paraan for her part maintains that, as a profession, journalism should be “as independent as possible since the journalists’ role as watchdogs in the service of the people’s right to know and to free expression.”
“The same goes for media as an institution of a democratic society,” said Paraan.
“We do thank Sen. Estrada for his continued concern for ensuring an independent Philippine media but we respectfully urge him to withdraw his bill, and to instead support the clamor for the enactment of other much-needed measures such as the much-delayed Freedom of Information Act,” NUJP’s statement said.