30 ARMM journalists get training on covering elections

Issues on ethics, safety, and other election-related topics were discussed during the training sponsored by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) national secretariat and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

NUJP secretary-general Rowena Carranza-Paraan said most of the journalists covering elections, especially in conflict-affected areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), are faced with several constraints on reporting election issues. Some lack logistical support from their network or company, lack access to candidates, and pressured by their news organization or by the campaign staff of the candidates.

To have a better coverage, Paraan suggested that reporters focus on issues, candidates’ profiles, campaign tactics, attend orientation and training, and more consultation with their editors and news desk head.

“Report events exactly as they happen and not as you would like them to happen. This means that you must be impartial in every way,” said Paraan.

She also suggested that to avoid being accused of being partisan, reporters must be careful not to be seen to be taking sides in political arguments and must not accept any inducement from a candidate or his or her supporter.

To stay out of trouble during election coverage, Paraan suggested that reporters must never carry a gun or a weapon. “They must be prepared as possible before leaving the office and should know their destination during the coverage,” she stressed.

After the training, journalists from Cotabato City decided to organize their own chapter of the NUJP and elected their interim officers. Elected chair was Vernie Simon of radio station DXMS of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation, vice chair is Regalado Tendero of The Mindanao Cross, secretary-general is Ferdinand Cabrera of ABS-CBN Cotabato, and treasurer is Noel Punzalan of the Philippine News Agency. The group’s spokesperson is John Felix Unson of The Philippine Star.

The NUJP Cotabato City chapter is the latest addition to the existing chapter organizations of the NUJP in Mindanao. The NUJP chapter in Kidapawan City was set up last November 2006.