This statement was signed last November 16 by 14 faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC) led by Dean Nicanor G. Tiongson. For verification, please call Prof. Danilo A. Arao (Chair, Department of Journalism) at 920-6852 or (0917) 833-ARAO.
We, the undersigned faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC), are disturbed by the statement made by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last November 10 at the 31st Top Level Management Conference of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) in Baguio City. As quoted by the media in the days that followed, she said that the media must cast aside their “bad boy” image by focusing on what the public wants – winners. According to her, “the economy is the only winner here today amidst these losers who carry no public mandate.”
The President should be reminded that the mass media cannot be harbingers of only good news or bad news. They report events based on the time-tested elements of news. On the other hand, the gatekeepers of information decide which should be printed, aired or uploaded based not only on what the public wants, but what the public needs. The media serve as watchdogs of the government and are therefore duty-bound to report all important events, regardless of how the concerned government institutions and officials are portrayed.
President Macapagal-Arroyo should know how media organizations function. Being aware of the workings of the press is a crucial step to knowing the role of an independent mass media in national development.
There are journalists who have lived up to the highest standards of journalism, and some of them mattered enough to be harassed, intimidated and even murdered. Instead of being concerned about media’s alleged loss of credibility, the President should focus on bringing the perpetrators of violence against media to justice.
If the President wants to help mass media, she should address the fundamental issue of justice for murdered journalists. No one has been convicted for the 70 murders of journalists that have occurred since 1986.
While it is imperative for the President to leave the media alone in terms of what they should report, it is incumbent upon this administration to ensure that journalists can work in an atmosphere where they can properly exercise their function without being harassed or threatened with violence.