BEYOND THE FOUR WALLS: How not to get killed in media?

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 1 June) – I am reviewing my instructional materials (IMs) in journalism/media writing even if classes in our university resume only in August. June-July has become the “second summer” for a state university in the age of ASEAN integration. This is the best time to fix my IMs.

Today, I also got excited after a colleague called, inviting me to speak before a crowd about journalism. I have been asked to speak on “Basic Journalism” before an audience coming from the grassroots in different communities.

One of the requests of the community organizer, however, struck me hard.

“Please give us the basics, like how to gather news and how not to get killed,” he said over the phone. We are taught that ethical and responsible journalism is the best defense in media safety. Of course, we also keep ourselves abreast with safety training sessions. The point rings a bell because it hogs the headlines today. Also, it gave my task of preparing content and the pursuit of journalism in general another layer of pressure.

Allow me to expound on this.

First, the role of journalism and media education among journalists and media literacy for the public in general are crucial in keeping the practice of ethical and responsible journalism.

To some, it might appear like another motherhood statement (apologies to mothers). Just to slice the “bulky” concept of ethical and responsible journalism – it goes with searching, pursuing, and reporting the truth that could hurt some people, especially those trying to hide the truth. So the method should also be one that minimizes harm without compromising the truth. Educating and training journalists is not the sole duty of schools, formation should continue in the newsrooms and in the field.

Second, since the practice of journalism and media work in general does not operate in a vacuum, media killings are not only because of what media are doing or not doing. Let it not be forgotten that media killings thrive because there is also an environment of impunity.

There is a culture of tolerance if not indifference on the killings. How many convictions do we have over a number of years? The environment is also abound with killings beyond media; with even more vulnerable sectors like farmers, students, teachers and many more. The killing of media workers and journalists alike is definitely not only about the media sector. This is also about citizens in general.

To educate and train journalists and media workers well is an important endeavor. But no amount of lecture, orientation and reminders can help journalists and media workers survive if the environment promotes killings.

I am not saying, there are no corrupt practices by media. Corruption works across systems, affecting media, too. Media corruption should be condemned and be addressed using the civil and legal mechanisms.

And so the constitutional provisions go guaranteeing the freedom of the press – because media plays an important role to help ensure citizens live with full freedom.

Government should come in to make sure those constitutional mechanisms are put to full use.

Pardon my reaction. I remembered a colleague who was killed. He was not corrupt. I’m sure of that. He did not deserve that, nobody deserves that. These are just disturbing updates we have today. I hope we just misheard, misread, or misinterpreted it. If not, then we are braced for vigilance for a long haul.

Going back to the instructional materials that I’m preparing for my students in journalism and to the request of a community organizer to teach their volunteers the basics of journalism, including “how not to get killed”.

I will try.

(Walter I. Balane, former Davao and Bukidnon reporter of MindaNews, teaches journalism and economics and manages DXBU 104.5 FM, the university radio station of Bukidnon State University.)