[UPDATED] Bukidnon journalists vow responsible coverage of 2013 polls

Members of Bukidnon News Media as they sign the declaration to cover the 2013 local and national elections “fairly, comprehensively, and accurately” | Bukidnon News photo by Dan Mental

Members of the news media of Bukidnon sign the declaration to cover the 2013 local and national elections “fairly, comprehensively, and accurately” | Bukidnon News photo by Daniel V. Mental

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/03 April) Journalists and other news media workers signed a one-page declaration Monday vowing to cover the 2013 local and national elections “fairly, comprehensively, and accurately.”

The declaration, signed after a seminar-workshop on election reporting organized by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, sought to remind both journalists and media stakeholders of their role in covering the elections.

The declaration was released after reports reached media organizations about disgust and criticism from the public on the conduct of radio block timers who were backed by politicians.

“We members of the (news media) in Bukidnon commit to ensure responsible news and information dissemination to the general public … to pursue the highest standard in print, broadcast, television, and online news undertaking with the public good and welfare as the primordial concern,” the 12-paragraph statement said.

Signatures of News Media in Bukidnon who signed in favor of the declaration | Bukidnon News photo by Daniel Mental

Signatures of News Media in Bukidnon who signed in favor of the declaration | Bukidnon News photo by Daniel Mental

In the “Pulitika sa Bukidnon” Facebook group, netizens hit “reporters” as alleged “paid hacks” of politicians in a thread created by FB member “HDG.”

“(Name of politician) has controlled the Bukidnon media and the paid spokespersons on air,” HDG, an information technology professional posted.

He added that radio has a great influence on the people especially to those who were unable to attain further education

“(Listeners do not know that the program are milking cows of the (paid hacks), hitting politicians when they do not pay and praising them if they do).

“AB,” another FB user agreed.

“That’s the sad news. The news bearers have been paid (by politicians),” he added.

Proponents of the declaration clarified they only want to promote responsibility and good practices.

The declaration cited that those who signed, 33 from different media outlets and organizations, as of April 1, “are aware that the news media is expected to deliver meaningful and significant information to help citizens arrive at informed choices.”

Reporters cited that “providing meaningful and accurate information” does not rely only on reportorial skills but also on “understanding and adherence to the ethical standards of journalism.”

“We commit to follow the Journalists’ Code of Ethics (http://www.eyeonethics.org/journalist-code-of-ethics-in-asia/journalists-code-of-ethics-philippines/) adapted by the Philippine Press Institute, the National Press Club, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP); and the standards set by the KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas) Broadcast Code of the Philippines 2007 (as amended in 2011) http://www.kbp.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/KBP_Broadcast_Code_2011.pdf)

They also sought management of radio stations and newspapers to “conduct refresher sessions on ethics, skills trainings, and professionalism courses; and impose appropriate sanctions to violators”.

The statement also cited that to be transparent, members of the news media who work in full or part-time basis for politicians or political parties should make it public and “take a leave of absence from reportorial duties.”

“We do not condone any form of abuse by our colleagues; and we vow to help improve the situation with dialogue and action knowing it will affect the credibility of our profession,” the reporters said in the statement.

Reporters appealed to the public to take advantage of mechanisms in place in the media community to address reported abuses.

“We encourage the public to bring to the attention of editors and station managers or the president or chair of the Bukidnon Press Club, the KBP and NUJP Bukidnon chapters any case of abuse or irresponsibility by any member of the press so the proper channels can act appropriately.”

But they lamented that another problem in covering elections in the province is lack of access to information among authorities involved in the conduct of elections.

“We also demand more transparency from candidates and political parties on their platforms and campaign fund sources as well as their compliance, too, on election regulations,” they added.

Pacifico Estore, Jr, NUJP-Bukidnon president, said it is important for the media community to stand up and take care of its members through self-regulation.

“It was an overdue move. We only needed someone to initiate it with the perception that the media community has ignored or tolerated (breaches in ethics and standards),” he added.

Norma Brigente, editor of the church-owned Ang Bandilyo weekly news paper, said the move helps gain back the trust of the public to the news media.

“For journalists, it reminds us of our role and responsibility to the public, especially during election time,” she added.

Ruby Balistoy, Philippine Information Agency-Malaybalay chief, said the statement is a tool for journalists to check if they are still in the right track with regards to role and responsibilities.

Armando Benabaye, KBP-Bukidnon vice chair, said the declaration is a good start for the media organizations in Bukidnon.
“It will now serve as a local reference for the media (on matters of ethics and professionalism),” he added.

Benabaye noted that the KBP was unable to respond to the perceived abuses by block timers because there were no complaints lodged before them, a requirement for them to investigate. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)