The coverage of violence and conflict in media presents the subject as a critical concern about the role of the press in society and its impact on development. Violence is endemic, criminal and embedded in various aspects of national life.
A gun culture perpetrates this violence, giving rise to an incidence that should not be tolerated by civilized society.
Focusing on the election related violence, this study examines the quality of the political exercise in a different light, concerned not with the security of electoral procedures as much as the security of the stakeholders of the exercise. This concern draws us to regional conditions that are under-reported by the media — the poverty, the lack of public services, of health and education for so many communities in remote areas which underline severe social inequalities in the country. The state of such deprivation makes these citizens vulnerable to attacks and threats, intimidation, harassment and other dangers. These may not prevent the holding of elections, but it raises questions about the freedom of the people’s choice.
In monitoring the coverage of violence in the 2016 elections, CMFR assigned regional team leaders in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the latter concentrating on ARMM. As journalists, these were engaged as well in covering elections for their news organizations, while evaluating media reports about violent incidents in the course of the campaign up to election week.
The limited study recorded the highest incidence of electoral violence in the provinces of ARMM in Mindanao, in Samar in the Visayas, and Abra in the Cordilleras. These incidents were reported as incidents without reference to the context of conflict in these communities.
The study shows a limited scope of coverage given to regional news by national newspapers. Monitoring teams have also noted that media reports mainly relied on police and military records to describe the violence, circumstances and identity of casualties. Lacking context in reports, the press fails to draw policy attention to the underlying issues of conflict.
Read CMFR’s full report here.— PCIJ, August 2018