SOMAtion: State of the Media Add[REP]RESS[ION]

As the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) celebrated its 22nd anniversary, media practitioners presented today’s state of the Philippine media.

Volume VIII, Number 26, August 3-9, 2008

If Mrs. Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address was full of applauses from her cohorts in Congress, the State of the Media Address showed the depressing status of the media and journalists in the country.

“The media is a reflection of the SONA,” said Joe Pavia, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute, adding that the state of the nation is the reflection of the state of the media and vice versa.

Killings, threats

The Philippines is classified as one of the countries that have a partly free press, said Isagani Yambot, publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Since 1986, the PDI and the NUJP have tallied 116 journalists killed. Citing data from the Philippine National Police’s Task Force Usig, he said that only four suspects in only two cases of killings have been arrested.

In most cases, only the gunmen, not the masterminds, were arrested, creating a culture of impunity, said Yambot.

Sonny Fernandez, NUJP vice chair, said, “The number of killings minus the few token cases solved equals culture of impunity.”

Many journalists also face threats and harassments from politicians and drug lords. Yambot said.


Yambot further said that libel cases are being used to repress crusading journalists. He recalled the libel cases filed by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo against several members of the media.
He also criticized efforts to limit the media’s access to information.

Low pay

Print journalists also suffer low wages as compared to television news anchors. Five years ago, Yambot said a news anchor earned P380, 000 ($8,592 at the current exchange rate of $1=P44.225) a month while newspaper section editors earned a meager P35,000 to P40,000 ($701 to $904) a month.

“You’re going to get your reward in heaven,” was all Yambot could tell journalists every time they ask for a wage increase.

Mike Ubac, president of the PDI Employees Union, said that many reporters do not have job security and benefits. Others would not receive their salary for five months.

Ubac also said that while the management wants media practitioners to become super reporters or multimedia reporters, they do not get additional compensation.

Fernandez said, “Ang mga journalists, araw-araw nakikibaka para sa disenteng pamumuhay.” (Journalists struggle every day for a decent living.)

Professional issues

Another problem cited by Yambot is the deteriorating proficiency in English. He said that some would literally translate Filipino into English.

Yambot also complained that some journalists don’t have a sense of historical background. As Joe Torres of said, stories must be given faces and the proper context.

Ed Lingao, news director of ABC 5 pointed out two major challenges faced by broadcast journalists. He said some media students start on the wrong foot; they want to be into broadcast journalism because they just want to be seen on television or to become famous.

Lingao said another problem lies on the practitioners themselves. He said that many reporters and journalists are lazy and some are arrogant. He said lazy reporters fail to give background or context to their reports and arrogant reporters and camera persons would even punch or hit suspects in crime scenes.

There is also confusion between the roles of newsmen and entertainers, said Lingao. “Writing skills always take the back seat,” he said, “while appearances are deemed more important.”
He said that managers and producers as the most important gatekeepers should always be responsible.

Press freedom

Fernandez said the façade or perception of power and fame of the media remains only in the façade given all the threats and struggles faced by journalists.

He concluded that there can be no press freedom if journalists live in fear, corruption and poverty. Bulatlat

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