Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Threatened? Shout it out!

With the canvassing of the election results remains chaotic and bloody, are we seeing more threats against journalists covering it? Journalists -- whether they are based in the provinces or in Manila like Ricky Carandang -- remain under attack for only doing their work.

I was able to catch ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) reporting about the threat against two of their journalists. The two journalists were in the studio talking about the threat. While ANC and ABS-CBN have been reporting about these media threats and attacks in the past, I hope they would also give cases involving other journalists who might not be connected with their network the same airtime they gave to Carandang and their radio reporter Noel Alamar.

Having that said, ABS-CBN is right to quickly report, and condemn, the incident. When a journalist gets a threat, he or she should quickly report it -- nay, shout it out -- to media organizations and authorities.

Reporter receives death threat after exposing election anomalies
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

A television and a radio reporter for the ABS-CBN network received death threats in Lanao del Norte, a province located in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), after reporting election irregularities in the province. ARMM is in Mindanao, the second largest and southernmost island of the Philippines.

ABS-CBN television news program TV Patrol World reported on 28 May 2007 the threats received by reporters Ricky Carandang and Noel Alamar, which came after they reported election anomalies in Lanao. Carandang is a television reporter/anchor while Alamar reports for DZMM, the flagship AM station of the ABS-CBN broadcasting corporation.

ABS-CBN news and current affairs head Maria Ressa released a statement on the 29 May 2007 episode of TV Patrol World condemning the incident.

“ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs condemns in the strongest possible terms, these attempts to intimidate the members of our newsgathering team. We would like to warn those involved that their identities are known to us,” Ressa said.

Ressa also added that they are “prepared to take legal action should these threats continue or should any harm come to Mr. Carandang, Mr. Alamar, or any member of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs.”

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thank you, guys

So, just after three hours since I turned off my office computer in Makati, I'm back in front of the computer again -- this time here in our house, while I am wondering where to start in my work -- whether to monitor the news programs I am assigned to cover for the June and July issue of the PJR Reports, or watch first the May 14 elections coverage of selected programs. Since I am leaving for Dagupan Friday afternoon to attend the (very early) Saturday wedding of my thesis partner in college, I have no choice but to stay awake until then. Never mind If I look like a zombie on the wedding day. Aaargh.

But I just want to say that without the help of our interns this summer -- about 20 in all -- many of the activities of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) would not have been finished. Or if they were, they won't be finished in record time, which the interns have done. So, thank you guys. I know how you guys have worked hard and I know how the staff, particularly yours truly, have made your lives these summer feel like hell. But as I've said repeatedly, that internship at CMFR is not going to be a bed of roses. Now, with all your monitors and stories in, all those election-related reports, all the profiles/primers about the journalist killings, all the research work we've asked you to do -- and yes, even the photos, directories, and encoding you've done -- don't you feel proud that you did something in your internship to further professionalize and improve the country's press?

In a previous post anticipating this year's interns, I wrote: "(Here's) hoping to see a batch that is equally great, if not greater, than the previous one. No pressure, guys, but last year's batch of interns was a tough act to follow."

Indeed, to succeed a previous batch of great interns was a tough act to follow. But I think this year's batch far succeeded in whatever expectations we in CMFR had about them. As a group, their immense volume of work was simply incomparable. I don't even know where to begin. The elections coverage of the tabloids? Public affairs programs? radio stations? The study on political advertisements? The study about the preparedness of the press in this year's elections? The database on journalist killings, more comprehensive now than ever? The digitization/reorganization of PJR Reports and Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism articles as well as the CMFR photos? Simply astounding.

So to our interns, take your much-deserved break. And to the handful of interns who are still in CMFR doing last-minute work, see you in the office and may you finish soon to enjoy whatever remaining days you have this summer (I know some of you are taking your short summer breaks outside the country). And to those who plan to do volunteer work for CMFR, see you soon. But to all of you, thanks and see you in our nightout (just like what we promised) soon.

Meanwhile, below are some photos of the best journalism students around. You can see five of the six CMFR staffwriters in the photo above as well as most of the interns this summer. (Photo above courtesy of the proud alerts intern Tat; the rest from Don)

During our trivia contest last May 18 in the "interns room", just before the final program for the interns:

Showing they are the best: Two of the "little Bryants," Angela and Rocel, after winning in the group category of the contest (with their proud and smiling "Big Bryant" together with Bimbo and Junette who managed to smile for posterity's sake). Hahahaha!

Rachel won the contest's individual category. Here with her proud "father" Don (flashing his pearly white teeth) who looked like he was the one who's going home with the goodies from CMFR:

CMFR's five "Outstanding Interns": Rachel, Stephen, Rocel (who was named the "Most Outstanding Intern") Tat, and Ivy:

The interns who attended the May 18 program. Unfortunately, some were not able to attend the event. The interns come from the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, St. Scholastica's College, and Far Eastern University (Go, Criz!).

The interns with their hot-headed supervisor:

And with Bimbo, allegedly the "hottest" staffwriter around, who according to latest reports, already has a fans' club of his own. Just kidding, Bimbs. :P

With the staff

The interns with their bosses

Starting with the oh-so-serious, no-nonsense Team Bryant. I just looked like I was awarded with a "Jeers/Squash" label by the PJR Reports monitor. While my two interns rightfully deserved "Cheers/Star Apple."

The youthful-looking Venus together with her mature-looking interns.

Don, the "hottest" staffwriter according to the interns last year, together with his interns

The rambunctious Alerts desk together with their inimitable boss, Bimbo

And the Team Junette, who looked like a bunch of cheerleaders (hot!)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

That's what the First Gentleman thought

So, Mike Arroyo thought that his "generosity" would make the press love him. That's what he thought.

Here's the joint statement of the journalists who have filed a class suit against the Mr. Arroyo:

In view of Jose Miguel Arroyo’s announcement that he intends to withdraw all the libel suits he has brought against journalists (46 in all), the question is raised whether we might respond by withdrawing our own class suit against him.

As it happens, this is not a case of such humanitarian challenge as the question seems to suggest. Mr. Arroyo, no doubt, deserves every sympathy after his heart surgery but, however serious his condition may be, it does not excuse him from misrepresenting his place in the way he has done: his is not to dispense generosity (his own word) to the journalists, but to ask them for it.

Apparently, Mr. Arroyo has had a dubious epiphany. Instead of realizing, as might have been the case in a true chastening, that he has filed whimsical, malicious, wholesale suits, and apologizing, he presents himself as in fact the one wronged and offers yet to forgive.

That is adding insult to injury, and it serves only to strengthen our intention to proceed with our suit for damages in behalf of our profession.

In the history of Philippine media, it is Mr. Arroyo who has filed the most number of libel cases versus journalists.

Let us remember that he is out to erode the watchdog function of the press. That is anathema in a democracy.

We’re trying to build the press as an institution that will function vigorously as part of the checks and balances in our system. As it is, we already operate in difficult conditions, where vested interests dominate some media organizations and the culture of impunity casts its dark shadow on us.

Today, we face a new battleground—in the courts.

The killer project

Finally, after more than a three-week hiatus, I am posting an entry in this blog again. As some of you know, I have been busier since the news media elections coverage monitoring project of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) started in February. Well, when did I stop whining about how busy we have been at CMFR?

But man, this year so far has been a killer. And to think that we are not even finished with the final report of the news media elections coverage monitoring project. Then in June, it’s the Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism. Don’t forget that we do publish the PJR Reports every month. Maybe Glenn and the other interns are right. I sure looked like mess over the past few months, haggard from all the activities in the office. Maybe that is why most interns preferred Bimbo as the hottest staffwriter, not me. Haha. I guess, these days, I’m the hot-headed staffwriter.

Don’t get the idea, however, that I am complaining. One thing I loved working at CMFR is that you get to learn a lot of things about the media and their role in the society, what journalists should be doing, and the ethical and professional issues involving the press. It’s like taking up an informal master’s course in journalism. Plus, you get to work with some of the best journalists I know. If you’re a journalist and media-monitoring work does not appeal to you, then the idea of working for the likes of Melinda Quintos de Jesus, Luis V. Teodoro, Vergel O. Santos, Chit Estella, Booma Cruz, and Rachel Khan might. And then you also get to work with the best young journalists (Venus, Don, Bimbo, Junette, and Melai, who came onboard last May 16) I know. And no, I’m not just sucking up to these guys. They are really, really great.

Well, since we devoted a lot of time and energy – and a lot of meriendas courtesy of Ate Carol – I think my first post after more than three weeks is about the news media elections coverage monitoring project.

As I’ve said earlier, the only thing we’re not finished yet with this project is the final report, which will cover the news media coverage of the whole campaign period including the last two weeks or so of the campaign. What is good with this project is that it is only the second time CMFR released periodic reports about the media coverage of the elections and included a review of the television coverage. The first time CMFR released reports about the media coverage while the campaign was going on was in the 2004 presidential elections, the only organization in the Philippines to do so.

In the landmark 2004 project, CMFR accomplished the project with the help of citizen and academic groups – the first time a media NGO involved such groups in a broader watch of media coverage. As in 2004, Prof. Danilo Arao and selected journalism students from the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication also helped in this year’s news media elections coverage monitoring project.

Aside from better media-monitoring instruments we used, what is exciting about this year’s project is that aside from monitoring selected broadsheets and news programs, CMFR – with the help of interns whom CMFR had trained for the project – also reviewed the elections coverage of selected tabloids, public affairs shows, and radio programs. In our March 5 roundtable discussion on monitoring elections coverage, some of the journalists present raised the idea that CMFR should not only monitor the elections coverage of broadsheets and news programs but also tabloids, public affairs shows, and radio programs as well. A gargantuan task, we thought back then. But lo and behold, monitoring these other platforms was done, even though it proved to be really difficult.

To further complement these in-depth reports about the news media elections coverage, CMFR also did an analytical study of the political advertisements in newspapers and TV (which is available online as well as the monitoring reports), as well as how the press prepared itself for the coverage, basically an update of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism study in 2004.

To read the reports, here are the following links:

CMFR Monitor of News Media Coverage of the 2007 National Elections

First Report (February 13 - March 2)
TV, broadsheets covered TU most in first three weeks of campaign

Second Report (March 3 - March 16)
Arrest of Ocampo triggers surge in party list elections coverage

Third Report (March 17 - March 30)
Scandals put party-list ahead in media coverage
But Team Unity retains coverage edge over Genuine Opposition

Consolidated report (February 13 – March 30)
Media coverage of elections declines in sixth and seventh weeks of campaign

Fourth Report (March 31 – April 20, 2007)
Senate and Party-list News takes a Backseat
Team Unity, Genuine Opposition still the most-covered subjects

Supplemental Reports

Tabloid and AM Radio Coverage of the
Senate and Party-List Elections (16-27 April 2007)

Public Affairs Programs' Coverage of the
Senate and Party-list Elections and Political Advertising in Print and Broadcasting

For more information about the project and reports, you might want to read the CMFR Roundtable Discussion on Monitoring Elections Coverage. Clips of the roundtable discussion are available here as well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Just finished talking in Bahasa

Just came back from Jakarta last Friday after launching the latest book of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and attending the regional World Press Freedom Day activities there.

The book, launched in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, is Philippine Press Freedom Primer: Quick Answers to Your Questions.

An easy reading material about the media situation in the Philippines, the primer is meant to provide those unfamiliar with the state of press freedom in the Philippines a quick guide to and overview of press conditions in the country. CMFR executive director Melinda Quintos de Jesus describes the primer as “designed to serve those making their first step of inquiry into the subject. It should be useful in planning research strategies for academic papers and as a quick reference for those writing articles and reports. For the general public, it is a ‘quick fix,’ a resource that will help contextualize current news about the press, from the violent attacks as well as the cases of libel which have caused journalists to be jailed.”

For more information about the primer, please click here.

I am currently writing an article about the World Press Freedom Day activities there in Jakarta, which I will later post here. It was great to see journalists around the region gathering together, taking a united stand for press freedom. Journalists as far as Afghanistan, Nepal, and Pakistan were also there in Jakarta to lend support.

It was also fun to see my old friends there -- like Siew Eng of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and Indonesian journalists Abdul Manan, Handaru Putro, and Anggara (If I am forgetting anyone, it was not intentional so please don't be sad.) I also made new friends there, so even though I was the only one from CMFR went to Jakarta and attend the activities, it was never that lonely. Plus I spent some time there with Filipino journalists Joe Torres (of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines) and Red Batario (Center for Community Journalism and Development), two journalists I sincerely admire. These guys made me "celebrate" my birthday in Jakarta (photos at left) even though it's still a few months away, and told everyone that I am the Philippine Idol. Sheesh. Imagine my fright when the Indonesian and Afghan journalists I'm with in a karaoke club (on my last night before I left) began talking about my "Idol" stint and egging me to sing. Horror of horrors.

Thanks to these guys, my stay proved memorable. Of course, it helped that SEAPA provided me with a nice room at Santika Hotel. Nice facilities I must say (By the way, the first photo above was taken in my room).

Of course one section in my room is devoted to the infamous "green envelopes."

Anyone who has worked with CMFR for at least five hours will know that the green envelopes contain the gazillion work we do there. In my case:

Election monitors -- what else is new

Since I was CMFR's publicity person in Jakarta, I did not forget to bring copies of CMFR's publications, including the primer.

Also discovered the Indonesian versions of Chippy. Forgive my MSG-addicted taste buds, but the Filipino versions are waaay better.

The view outside my room:

Since there is no direct Manila-Jakarta flight, I have to stop by Singapore's Changi Airport. It was my first time to go there. The place is so modern. And expensive. I never thought that jelly beans could be that expensive. So, to the guys in the office and back home, please, please, savor them slowly. Yes, even the coconut- and rootbeer-flavored ones.

Love Changi's sunflower area by the way.

So, now I'm back here in Manila. Lots of work to do. Sigh.
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