Forty news organizations and more than 300 individual journalists have pledged to protect the 2022 elections against disinformation, cheating, corruption, partisan interests and other threats to democracy.
They also pledged to stand in solidarity with one another when media outlets or journalists are harassed because of critical reporting on the candidates and their campaigns.
Journalists gathered in a webinar on Saturday, July 17, and released a statement highlighting the role of independent media during another critical moment in the country.
“Credible elections need credible media; conversely, corrupt media can further corrupt politics, ”the pledge says.
Economist and columnist Solita Monsod, who hosted the webinar, stressed the need to close ranks and defend press freedom amid attacks under the current administration.
The international organization Reporters Without Borders has included President Rodrigo Duterte in its 2021 gallery “Predators of Press Freedom”. His government shut down the ABS-CBN television network, arrested Rappler CEO Maria and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. on computer libel charges, and attacked the property of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Pia Ranada, Rappler’s reporter in Malacañang, expressed concern that Duterte’s antagonism towards critical journalists would encourage and influence candidates and other officials to do the same.
“I think we as journalists have to find a way to support other journalists when this (attacks) happens. These journalists don’t have to go through it alone, ”Ranada told the webinar.
Ranada continues to be banned from entering the palace premises. She and other Rappler journalists were excluded from Viber groups of politicians and government offices.
The pandemic has also exacerbated the challenges facing the media under the current administration.
Veteran journalist Carolyn Aguillas lamented how several community newspapers in Mindanao have been forced to downsize, lay off employees or shut down altogether. Many Mindanaoan employees of regional ABS-CBN stations have been made redundant. Many Mindanao viewers have also been deprived of their source of information and entertainment, she said.
ABS-CBN reporter Jeff Canoy spoke of “survivor’s guilt” as many of his friends and colleagues lost their jobs due to the shutdown.
Despite the challenges, Canoy said journalists on the network will continue to be independent and critical of the government and candidates in the 2022 election.
Canoy also called for unity among reporters. “We are at another crossroads,” he said.
“Ang tanong: mananatili ba tayong watak-watak, kanya-kanya, kebs lang sa kapwang journalists? O magtutulungan ba tayo mananidigan para hindi lang natin sabihin, ‘Buhay pa tayo’ but ‘Buhay na buhay’ yung journalism said in the Philippines (The question is, do we remain divided and oblivious to each other’s challenges? Or do we unite and fight together to keep journalism alive), ”he said.
Journalists also recognized the need to change the way the Filipino media covers the elections. They pledged to focus on issues rather than personalities and to examine the backgrounds and qualifications of candidates and political parties.
They also pledged to correct falsehoods in candidates’ statements and to avoid amplifying hate speech and incitement to violence.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and its staff are among those who signed the pledge. – Maria Cecilia O. Pagdanganan
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– PCIJ, July 2021