Given the continuing political crisis, should the press remain "disinterested" and "disengaged" in its coverage? Should journalists continue to cover issues the way they have always been?
The political context pushes us in the press for a reexamination and reaffirmation of the crucial role of journalism in our society, as well as the professional values we hold dearly. And at the same time, the reexamination and reaffirmation should include an understanding of the political situation we are in, and more importantly, the policies--stated or otherwise--of the current administration.
Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and Luis Teodoro, PJR Reports editor, discuss the media coverage of political crises in the April edition of the PJR Reports. Both their views were presented at an earlier CMFR forum about the issue.
What is Journalism For?
by Melinda Quintos de Jesus
The political crisis in the Philippines is a crisis of leadership, provoked initially by the initial controversy over the president’s interference to manipulate election results in 2004.
The crisis has been heightened by serial charges of corruption with a resulting loss of public trust and confidence in her leadership and her capacity to put public interest as the central value of her government. While these have all failed, the number of impeachment complaints (13) and attempts (three) filed in Congress— a strong indication of the depth of the crisis—are unprecedented in Philippine history.
But as has been pointed out by many critics of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, it is not only the public officials currently in power who are failing. The entire political system, culture, and conduct of the ruling class are all in need of reform. Because weaknesses seem embedded in the system, the public seems at a loss about how best to resolve the crisis.
The public has not been able to unite on a strategy. The continuing challenge to the president has weakened the authority of government and the state, along with its agencies and instrumentalities. The profound polarization has eroded public support for government itself as leaders resort to a tactical approach to insure the president’s political survival.
The press community itself is divided. News reports and commentary reflect the opposing views of the factions among political groups and organizations, as well as those of civil society.Read more here.
A Two-Way Street
by Luis V. Teodoro
Political crises take many forms. In this country—and for the generations represented here today—these forms have ranged from such critical events as the bombing of a political rally and the subsequent suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the declaration of martial rule, the killing of the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., military-civilian mutinies that have unseated presidents, several coup attempts, and a declaration of a state of emergency which itself became an emergency for many groups and individuals as well as for the Bill of Rights.
Lately the crisis has taken the form of a confrontation between, on the one hand, a president more than a majority of the populace believes was not legitimately elected, and, on the other, a broad spectrum of forces that wants her government to at least account for, or to at most resign over, the vast network of corruption that has metastasized in it. Late last year, however, the country was also treated to a crisis which was erroneously reported as a coup attempt, the main component of which seemed to be a press conference in which the same putative president was asked to resign.
We have thus witnessed one political crisis after another, each of varying intensity, but each one being, by common consent, a turning point in the way the country is being governed. And that’s what a political crisis is—a moment in the life of a country in which issues of power and governance come to the surface to shatter the illusion of stability that every government this country has ever had since 1946 has taken pains to cultivate.Read more here.