Bukidnon media workers sign manifesto for responsible poll coverage

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/3 April)– Reporters and other media workers signed a one-page declaration Monday, vowing to cover the 2013 local and national elections “fairly, comprehensively and accurately.”

The declaration, signed after a seminar-workshop on election reporting organized by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), sought to remind both journalists and media stakeholders of their role in covering the elections.

The declaration was firmed up after media organizations received criticisms from the public about the conduct of politician-backed radio block-timers, or those who buy air time slots.

“We members of the (press) in Bukidnon commit to ensure responsible news and information dissemination to the general public … to pursue the highest standard in print, broadcast, television, and online news undertaking with the public good and welfare as the primordial concern,” the 12-paragraph statement said.

In the “Pulitika sa Bukidnon” Facebook group, netizens hit “reporters” as alleged paid hacks of politicians in a thread created by FB member “HDG.”

HDG, who describes himself as an information technology professional, claimed that a certain politician “has controlled the Bukidnon media through paid spokespersons on the air.”

He noted that radio has a great influence on the people, especially to those who were unable to attain further education

At least 33 workers from different media outlets in the province have signed the declaration as of April 1.

The declaration urged the media workers “to deliver meaningful and significant information to help citizens arrive at informed choices.”

It noted that “providing meaningful and accurate information” does not rely only on reportorial skills but also on “understanding and adherence to the ethical standards of journalism.”

Those who signed vowed to adhere to the Journalists’ Code of Ethics adapted by the Philippine Press Institute, the National Press Club, and the NUJP; and the standards set by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas’ Broadcast Code of the Philippines 2007 (as amended in 2011).

Pacifico Estore Jr, NUJP-Bukidnon president, said it is important for the media community to stand up and take care of its members through self-regulation.

“It was an overdue move. We only needed someone to initiate it with the perception that the media community has ignored or tolerated [breaches in ethics and standards],” he added.

Norma Brigente, editor of the church-owned Ang Bandilyo weekly newspaper, said the move “will help gain back the trust of the public to the news media.”

“For journalists, it reminds us of our role and responsibility to the public, especially during election time,” she added.

Ruby Balistoy, Philippine Information Agency-Malaybalay chief, said the declaration “is a tool for journalists to check if they are still in the right track with regards to role and responsibilities.”

Armando Benabaye, KBP-Bukidnon vice chair, said the declaration is a good start for the media organizations in Bukidnon.

“It will now serve as a local reference for the media (on matters of ethics and professionalism),” he added.

Benabaye noted that the KBP was unable to respond to the perceived abuses by block timers because there were no complaints lodged before them, which is a requirement for them to investigate.

The declaration also asked the management of radio stations and newspapers to “conduct refresher sessions on ethics, skills trainings and professionalism courses; and to impose appropriate sanctions to violators.”

It also stressed that to be transparent, media workers who work in full or part time basis for politicians or political parties should make a public disclosure and take a leave of absence from reportorial duties.

“We do not condone any form of abuse by our colleagues, and we vow to help improve the situation with dialogue and action knowing it will affect the credibility of our profession,” according to the manifesto.

It appealed to the public to take advantage of mechanisms in place in the media community to address reported abuses.

“We encourage the public to bring to the attention of editors and station managers or the president or chair of the Bukidnon Press Club, the KBP and NUJP Bukidnon chapters any case of abuse or irresponsibility by any member of the press so the proper channels can act appropriately,” it said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)