Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ethics In Philippine Media

The Philippine media is one of the most open, free and powerful press in the world.  But this freedom and power is also often abused, misused and corrupted.  I know what I am talking about having been reviled and maligned by unscrupulous talk radio commentators who call themselves "media" often enough in the past and present time.  Of course, I never respond to them having kept in mind the very good advice of a friend who is also a media practitioner, to never react to what talk radio says because by reacting, you add fuel to the fire. Besides that, Filipino press is not guided by any ethical standard, so why bother?

But to my is a better word...there is a Philippine Journalist's Code of Ethics which was formulated by the Philippine Press Institute and National Press Club and adopted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and a KBP Broadcast Code established in 2007! 

Journalist's Code of Ethics (Philippines)

I. I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.

II. I shall not violate confidential information on material given me in the exercise of my calling.

III. I shall resort only to fair and honest methods in my effort to obtain news, photographs and/or documents, and shall properly identify myself as a representative of the press when obtaining any personal interview intended for publication.

IV. I shall refrain from writing reports that will adversely affect a private reputation unless the public interest justifies it. At the same time, I shall fight vigorously for public access to information.

V. I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties, nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature that may cast doubt on my professional integrity.

VI. I shall not commit any act of plagiarism.

VII. I shall not, in any manner, ridicule, cast aspersions on, or degrade any person by reason of sex, creed, religious belief, political conviction, cultural and ethnic origin.

VIII. I shall presume persons accused of crime of being innocent until proven otherwise. I shall exercise caution in publishing names of minors and women involved in criminal cases so that they may not unjustly lose their standing in society.

IX. I shall not take unfair advantage of a fellow journalist.

X. I shall accept only such tasks as are compatible with the integrity and dignity of my profession, invoking the conscience clause when duties imposed on me conflict with the voice of my conscience.

XI. I shall conduct myself in public or while performing my duties as journalist in such manner as to maintain the dignity of my profession. When in doubt, decency should be my watchword.

 2007 KBP Broadcast Code Preamble


THAT broadcasting in the Philippines should reflect the hopes and
dreams of a freedom loving people;

THAT broadcasting is a powerful medium in shaping our country's
cultural, social and economic growth and development;

THAT broadcasting, because of its immediate and lasting impact on the
public, demands of its practitioners a high sense of responsibility,
morality, fairness and honesty at all times.

THAT broadcasting has an obligation to uphold the properties and
customs of civilized society, maintain the respect of the rights and
sensitivities of all people, preserve the honor and the sanctity of
the family and home, protect the sacredness of individual dignity,
and promote national unity.

As I read through the full text of the KBP Broadcast Code 2007, I could only shake my head in disbelief.  Does any broadcaster follow this?  Because listening to commentators and blocktimers in radio for example, it seems to me that either many are not aware of the code or if they are, then they are willfully disregarding or violating it.    Television and print media are not much better either in reporting the news. Oftentimes, to beat their deadlines, the article (print or TV) that they put out may contain biases or rash inferences. This has happened many times to me, that they would print only one side of the story and write some kind of disclosure that they were not able to get my side because I could not be contacted.  But the truth is, I was never contacted, and because a deadline had to be met, then whatever "news" they can get even if these contain half-truths or taken out of context, gets printed or reported. This to me is a perfect example of unethical practice.  News reporters have the big responsibility to provide the reading public with accurate and impartial news. There is no room for errors in news, no guesses should be made, all the information should be double checked. I understand that competition is tough, but fair and responsible journalism should not be sacrificed in the name of sales or ratings. Sensationalism is really bad journalism.

The two codes outlined above need to be well implemented but, I guess like the laws of the country, they too are treated as suggestions. KBP tries, but it can only sanction its members and so, if you're not can get away with almost anything. The best solution is self-regulation but unfortunately, in this country that remains just an ideal. Another area which I perceive may help in promoting ethical practices is just compensation for all media practitioners. I know that many of my media friends are paid salaries that are too low for the kind of work that they do. If news organizations want good and ethical news writers and reporters, then they should pay them well. This ensures that their loyalty is only to the organization they belong to, and no one else.

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