Bashing Local Media

The Pope, however, warned in the kindest of terms that media “does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence”. He rhetorically inquired if “it is wise to allow the instruments of social communication to be exploited for indiscriminate ‘self-promotion’ or to end up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences.”

That such undesirable condition and harmful practice has been normal in our local media was plentifully attested during a round-table discussion (RTD) held in the city last April 28. The RTD, dubbed as “Media, Civil Society, Human Rights and Peace: Giving Voice to the Victims”, was sponsored by Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project of the UK-based Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWMPR), National Union of Journalists of the Phils. (NUJP), Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), Mindanews and Western Mindanao State University. It particularly sought to find ways to improve media reporting of incidents of violations of human rights in the region.

As usual in such forums, media and non-media discussants lambasted the sensationalizing of violence in local news reports, how Manila-based editors routinely skew their local correspondents’ stories to give them more “shock and awe” value, the shallowness or mediocrity of local reportage and its deadening addiction to the politicians’ babble, and so on. What was heartbreakingly missed instead is an intelligent and indispensable reporting of abundant human rights violations, in all the terminology’s possible definition. Without exposing these virulent cases to the therapeutic light of public knowledge and conscience, our communities and citizens will forever suffer the scourges of fear and want, random violence and sudden death.

But as often happens in such forums, too, local media practitioners individually and collectively end up the target or scapegoats of otherwise valid criticisms. Reporters were and are called incompetent or unscrupulous, that they sell their souls to all comers and bidders. Oftentimes, too, those accusations are true. But why blame the reporters only? They are there and exist there because a very flawed system – mirroring and feeding their many faults – has held them hostage in their unenviable working conditions and thankless job. If our reporters write badly, it is both because they were hired despite their lack of skills and have not received skills training on the job – and that’s not their fault. If they are “envelop-mental”, that is largely because they receive starvation pay. So niggardly is local society towards its media – and thus alas to itself – that it would not even afford all this time the “consuelo de bobo” of giving awards to mediamen or media organizations for notable work. But really should do much more – for its own common good.

Winning the peace is just like waging a war. It requires investing in logistics and a capable and motivated fighting force. In other words, let’s put our money where our mouth is, which in this case is in our community’s media if we want it to do its job just right.

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