CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 04 May) — The public should get timely and accurate information on impending storms to prevent Yolanda-like catastrophic incidents from happening, a media leader said during a forum on press freedom here Saturday.
Red Batario, Executive Director of the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) emphasized this during a forum attended by students, the academe and journalists in celebration of the World Press Freedom Day last Saturday, May 3.
MindaNews and CCJD also supported the forum jointly held at the Mindanao University of Science and Technology and Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro.
“Typhoon Yolanda taught us a lesson on how important the free flow of timely and accurate information is. It will save lives,” Batario said.
He noted that the government “misread” the impact of the super typhoon and did not simplify technical weather terms like “storm surges” for Leyte residents to understand and assess its dangers.
Because of the government’s “misreading,” many residents and even government officials were unaware of the incoming danger.
“You have Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin lost in Tacloban because they did not think of bringing a satellite phone. The typhoon toppled all the communication towers,” Batario said.
Batario said the world did not know about the devastation of Tacloban until a day after when reports began to trickle in.
Cagayan de Oro Information Maricel Rivera said the media also plays a relevant role in giving timely and accurate information to the public during impending disasters.
“Government can only do so much but it it’s the independent media who can deliver it across quickly and efficiently,” she said.
The Freedom of Information Bill and the Cybercrime Law were also tackled during the morning forum at the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST).
JB Deveza, Mindanao Safety Officer of the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) said 26 journalists were murdered during the four-year administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
Deveza said more than half of these murders are already considered “cold cases” meaning police were unable to get any lead to the perpetrators and mastermind.
Ed Montalvan, publisher and editor in chief of Mindanao Current said it is paramount that the perpetrators should be brought to justice so the press can function without fear.
“Democracy exists because there is press freedom,” Montalvan said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)