Thursday, November 29, 2007

An assault not only on press freedom, but also on democracy itself

The arrests of journalists and other media practitioners who were covering the Makati incident is not only unprecedented but an outrage. Worse, it is a telling indication of the authoritarian tendencies of this administration, which has fallen in its obsession with political dominance.

That is what the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said in a statement it issued just now in the light of arrests made on journalists covering the Peninsula Hotel takeover. CMFR also calls on all media, free expression and journalists’ groups in this country as well as abroad to "denounce this atrocity as a willful act to inflict collateral damage on the Philippine press for doing its mandated responsibility of providing the sovereign public the information it needs."

Read here for the statement.

It's not Christmas that is just around the corner; it's Martial Law

Any moment now, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) is issuing a statement on the arrests made on journalists covering the Makati incident.

From Freedom Watch

Journalists and media organizations condemn the arrest of journalists

Maria Ressa, head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, condemned the arrests of not only members of the ABS-CBN 2 technical team but also other journalists and media practitioners covering the Makati incident.

"We in ABS CBN News strongly condemn the illegal arrests of our ABS CBN reporters and our colleagues in the media and decry the atrocious treatment we are being subjected to in the hands of the police. Our reporters were in the Manila Peninsula purely to fulfill their duties as journalists," she said.

Read here for more.

Stop harassing the press! Palace issues curfew

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issues this statement minutes before Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said on-air that MalacaƱang is issuing a curfew from 12 mn to 5 am tomorrow. The curfew might be extended tomorrow if the Palace has not "achieved its objectives," Puno added.

Media not the enemy - NUJP
November 29, 2007
Source: GMANews.TV

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on Thursday called on the National Police to stop treating journalists who covered the Makati standoff as enemies of the state.

"We protest in strongest terms the PNP's move to forcibly bring some journalists to the National Capital Region Police Office in Bicutan and condemn the confiscation of video footage of the day-long stand-off at the Manila Peninsula Hotel," the NUJP said in a statement.

Read more here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Maltreated refugees, forgotten soldiers

Take a look at the sad plight of these Bhutanese refugees.

The video can be seen here.

Here's what the London-based news agency Journeyman Pictures wrote about the video:

"Why did India open fire on thousands of Bhutanese refugees, trying to cross peacefully into India on their way home? This investigation includes rare footage of the shooting.
Shouting "Bhutan is our homeland", thousands of refugees attempt to stream across the Nepal-India border to go home to Bhutan. But the area is soon flooded with Indian security guards and shots ring out. Two people are killed and hundreds wounded."

These Hindu refugees are descendants from the Nepalese who settled in Bhutan centuries ago. But most of the population of Bhutan are Buddhist. In 1990, the King suddenly withdrew the Hindus' citizenship and forced them out. India allowed them safe passage to reach Nepal but now refuses to let them return to Bhutan. As one man laments: 'We are living a life that is worse than that of animals'."

Journeyman Pictures has other eye-opening video features as well. One good feature it did was about how thousands of American soldiers returning from Iraq have severe mental problems. "They feel abandoned by the Bush administration and claim officials are trying to hide the true scale of the problem," according to the report.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A peace-full return to Manila

Just came back from the Peace Journalism Seminar of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).

It was my first time to attend an actual seminar on peace journalism, although I had already finished a six-month online course on Peace and Conflict Reporting at the Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University. I am sure a lot of the participants, including the CMFR staff, learned so much from the seminar. The seminar made me think on how I look at reports on conflict and peace, and how I--whether subconsciously or not--still have ill-conceived notions and stereotypes against certain individuals and groups.

I'll tell you more details (and photos) later. Lots of news to read and things to do.

Meanwhile here's Janette Toral on a recent iBlog "mini" summit on blogging and the upcoming 2010 elections. The CMFR's findings on the media coverage of this year's senatorial and party-list elections were discussed in the forum.

Bloggers as Election Watchdog
Philippines Election Journal
November 25, 2007

When the idea of having a blogging and the 2010 elections forum first came to mind, Luz Rimban is one of those I consulted about it. Last Saturday, that finally happened with Luz, Atty. JJ Disini, and Rachel Khan in the panel.

Luz shared her perspective on bloggers acting as election watchdogs. She started by citing the various gaps noticed by CMFR in the 2004 and 2007 elections that includes:

* There were gaps in reportage in 2004 primarily on party-list elections, local elections, senatorial elections, and policy development issues.

* In 2007, coverage was not as extensive partly due public disinterest and skepticism over electoral institutions. Coverage were more focused on Team Unity versus Genuine Opposition.

* There were key issues that failed to turn out as election issues such as
  • Hello Garci scandal
  • Extra-judicial killings
  • Corruption
* Linking of local issues and elections with national issues and contests did not happen either.

Read more here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On reporting about peace and calling for a classless society

I'm taking a hiatus from blogging -- and reading emails, reading RSS feeds, Googling, blog hopping -- for a week at least. Lucky me. I am attending the Peace Journalism Seminar of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility both as senior staffmember and participant.

CMFR holds Peace Journalism Seminar
Source: CMFR

The coverage and treatment of violent conflict and war, and peace negotiations have raised questions about the impact of media on these and other national crises. The news agenda should be an independent process, seeking out the facts without external influence. And yet, journalists will be the first to admit that reporting can be colored or biased, as well as sensationalized. Worse, media can submit to contending sides and conduct a war of words, the force of which can harden the will against agreements that lay the ground for permanent peace.

This November, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) has invited more than 20 Manila- and community-based journalists to its Peace Journalism Seminar. The program will provide a shared framework of understanding the issues, with background briefings on the government-initiated peace process, perspectives on insurgency, and the role of the media in these developments, including practical pointers for the media.

Read here for more or visit the CMFR website.

Actually, I have already taken up a short online certificate course on Peace Journalism from the Asian (Konrad Adenauer) Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University last year. But I really look forward to attending CMFR's Peace Journalism Seminar, because CMFR has always cited peace as a critical area of press coverage. Media and Peace, in fact, has been a major concern for CMFR even before it published Media and Peace Reporting in 2000 (For those covering conflict-related issues and peace negotiations between the government and rebel groups, I really suggest reading this comprehensive book). And even before the Philippine Journalism Review and later the PJR Reports have conducted content analyses and monitors on press coverage of Mindanao.

CMFR's Peace Journalism Seminar will tackle and discuss questions such as "Does practicing peace journalism make me more of an advocate than a journalist?" and "How should I report on conflict and peace issues?" plus more.

So here I am in the office spending an overnight trying to finish my stories and other items for the December issue of the PJR Reports. Sigh.

Not that bad though. Blog entries, like the one from Desi below, keep me amused and sane even though I practically live now in the office. Desi is a former election volunteer of CMFR.

My Treatise for a Classless Society

Students! Throw away your books! You can include your sputtering pens and unused notebooks! Just bring yourself and perhaps one of life's basic necessities: instant noodles. Or whatever. Heed my call! Together, we shall march our tattered Chuck Taylors and slippers to wherever our uncorrupted intellect may take us. For we are about to embark on this lifelong struggle for a society that our jovial, freedom-loving, and individualistic societal designation - the student body - has so badly longed for: a classless society.

Tama mga iskulmeyts, isang lipunang walang klase!

And in light of these pronouncements, let me present my treatises why we should skip classes altogether and frolic someplace else with the consenting members of the opposite sex. While the majority of it maybe personal, I do believe that many of you feel that same weight on my back that our older kindred has so unjustly derided as laziness. Injustice, my test cheatmates, injustice!

Read here for more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Iraq reporting, libel and habeas data

Did media fail in reporting about the war in Iraq?

Prominent film directors Brian De Palma and Paul Higgis think so, according to a Reuters report.

Directors say war films make up for poor reporting
Source: Reuters
Nov. 15, 2007

Two Hollywood directors who are part of a wave of films about the war in Iraq and the broader fallout from the September 11, 2001 attacks have said they were only doing what media failed to do -- telling the truth.

Brian De Palma's "Redacted", arguably the most shocking feature yet about events in Iraq, hits theatres on Friday, using a documentary style to tell the true story of the gang rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by U.S. troops in 2006.

Paul Haggis also based "In The Valley Of Elah", already released, on true events linked to the war, although, unlike De Palma's cast of unknown actors, he employed major stars Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon.

Both film makers have attacked mainstream media for their coverage of the Iraq war and events leading to it.

Read here for more.

Do you agree with their observations?

On the local front, Freedom Watch writes about Cong. Prospero Nograles's bill removing the penalty of imprisonment for libel but increasing the fines for the offense. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility's press alerts officer Jose Bimbo F. Santos also has a take on the issue.

In their latest posts, both Bimbo and Malaya reporter Anthony Ian Cruz also reported a speech Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno made on the writ of habeas data. (Bimbo's entry here, Cruz's here)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Arroyo, the frequent traveler and generous donor

So, how did Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo exactly spend public funds last year? GMANews.TV gives us a clue.

President spent millions on travels, ‘donations’ and consultants in ‘06
Source: GMANews.TV
Karen Tiongson-Mayrina
November 15, 2007

The Office of the President spent generously last year on salaries, bonuses and benefits of its employees and consultants, but even more generously, on multiple travels at home and overseas and on unspecified “donations" and “consultancy services."

A Commission on Audit report showed that in 2006, the Office of the President spent P40 million a month on average for traveling expenses, mostly of the President, and another P35 million a month on average for “donations." Already, the combined amount of traveling expenses and “donations" used up over a third or 39 percent of Malacanang’s total expenses in 2006.

On top of this, the presidency spent an average of P44 million a month to pay the salaries and benefits of its employees.

Curiously indeed, what may be classified as “incidental expenses" and lump-sum allocations ranked among the expense items for which the Palace spent big amounts of taxpayers’ money. These included, apart from travel, “donations," “consultancy services," confidential expenses, and the creation of new offices.

Read more here.

The press should ensure that this issue gets sustained coverage, that it does not completely fall off from newspaper pages and airtime--even though other dizzying number of controversies at present (Batasan blast, alleged Palace cash gifts, Mariannet Amper, etc.) consume most of the press space and airtime.

Arroyo should be held accountable for these expenses (and for a lot other issues, as her critics would say). She should explain to all, especially to the Mariannets out there, how these funds were spent.

Guidebook on how to monitor media coverage of elections out

Technically speaking, I am now officially finished with our media coverage project of the 2007 senate and party-list elections, with its final component already completed.

From Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR):

Guidebook for media monitoring out

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), which has been monitoring election coverage since 1992, recently published a manual on monitoring media coverage of elections in the Philippine setting.

The manual, Monitoring Media Coverage of Elections: A Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) Guidebook, is the final component of CMFR’s media monitor of news media coverage of the 2007 elections. Last August, CMFR released its findings on the media coverage of this year’s elections, The CMFR Monitor: News Media Coverage of the 2007 National Elections.

The publication contains principles, guidelines, and methods for understanding the news media and the importance of media monitoring.

CMFR Deputy Director Luis V. Teodoro, Prof. Danilo A. Arao of the University of the Philippines Mass Communication, and PJR Reports Assistant Editor Hector Bryant L. Macale prepared the manual.

For more information about the project, click here. Thanks to Prof. Arao for posting about the book. He even made a writing contest on who can give the best answer to a hypothetical ethical situation concerning a journalist. The winner gets a copy of the election manual. If only I could join the contest. Haha.

And thanks to Malaya reporter Anthony Ian Cruz for writing an entry on it. "(G) iven the track record of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in producing well-written and amply-researched books... (the election manual) will be a worthy addition to its growing list of bestsellers among journalists and media watchers," he wrote. Thank you for the kind words, Tonyo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blast rocks Batasan complex

Sorry for the inactivity in this blog; I am currently swamped with all the work we do in the office. I hope to get back again sometime soon, but let me just break the current lull with these:

Blast rocks Batasan complex; 1 dead, 2 solons among hurt
Source: GMANews.TV
November 13, 2007

(Updated 9:10 p.m.) A loud explosion occurred at the south wing lobby of the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City, radio dzBB reported about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. The report said at least one died and six others were hurt in the incident, including at least two House lawmakers.

DzBB quoting information from National Capital Region Police Office chief Geary Barrias said one Marcial Calvo, reportedly the driver of Rep. Wahab Akbar died in the blast. The report also said Rep. Negros Oriental Rep. Pryde Henry Teves and Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Liwanag were hurt in the incident, along with four others.

Teves and his two other staff were brought to the New Era General Hospital. The report said the three sustained injuries to their faces, hands and feet.

Read more here.

Gabriela solon’s driver killed as blast rocks House: At least 2 solons hurt
November 13, 2007: Last update (09:12pm)

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 3) An explosion rocked the House of Representatives just minutes after session ended Tuesday evening, killing the driver of Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan and wounding the solon, Negros Oriental Representative Henry Tevez, and several other persons, National Capital Region Police Director Gearry Barias said.

Barias identified the fatality as Marcial Talbo, whose body was retrieved from inside Ilagan’s car and was identified through his identification card. He said at least four other people were wounded.

Read more here.

I am currently watching ANC for latest developments on the blast. Kudos to anchors Pia Hontiveros and David Celdran for being restrained as they wait for the latest news, repeatedly telling people to remain calm amid confusion and disinformation on what had just happened. Both were not speculating the reasons behind the blast, and were merely telling the public to rely only on reliable sources for more information. Information from text messages should not be immediately believed in, the two said.
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