Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Standards on covering religious officials approved

December 6th, 2006 · No Comments

The Cebu Citizens-Press Council on Dec. 5, 2006 approved standards on covering priests and other religious officials.

The standards address the confusion and disagreement on identifying members of the clergy accused of civil or criminal wrongdoing.

CCPC adopted a committee report submitted by members Mia Embalzado and Fr. Aloysius Cartagenas. Embalzado and Fr. Aloy had earlier met with media members and religious leaders of the Catholic Church and other religious organizations before submitting the report.

In a forum hosted by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility at the MBF Cebu Press Center in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City, CCPC members discussed the report and listened to religious leaders give their opinions as part of CCPC’s program to make the forum a sounding board for the community.

Religious officials present included Ustadz Haron Magadapa, an imam of the Cebu Green Mosque; Rev. Caleb Ernane Fuentes and Robert M. Ragas, pastors of the Bradford United Church of Christ, Inc.; Fr. Marnell Mejia, editor of Lungsoranon and resident priest of Christ the King Parish in Mandaue City; and Fr. Fidel Orendain, social communications in-charge, Don Bosco, Lawa-an, Cebu City.

The approved standards follow in full:

Standards on covering priests and other religious officials

The Cebu Citizens-Press Council encourages media to accord standards of accuracy and fairness in covering priests, ministers, bishops, and other religious leaders of whatever faith and denomination accused of criminal or civil wrongdoing.

Specifically, the Council encourages media:

[1] Not to name or otherwise identify a religious official who is accused of criminal or civil wrongdoing:

* Until a complaint is filed with the Prosecutor’s Office or in court;
or

* Except when the press is able to get the side of the religious
official, personally or by a spokesperson, or by extensive inquiry
is convinced there is probable cause, (not just because other media
already named or otherwise identified the religious official), but
always seeing to it that the story or commentary includes the side
of the religious official, not necessarily from him but from others
who are familiar with the facts; or

* Until the religious group or denomination to which the religious
official belongs names or otherwise identifies him;

[2] To afford the religious official the same rights available to news sources and others involved in the news, including the right to reply, fairness, accuracy, and equally prominent display of the story if he is cleared of the charges against him;

[3] To learn, by itself and the help of church organizations, Church Literacy, which will instruct journalists on Church structure and processes and answers to frequently asked questions that can lead to more informed reporting and commentary by the press;

[4] To cover with similar energy and diligence the good deeds of religious officials in the conduct of their duties.

Specifically too, the Council encourages religious leaders:

[1] To understand better media structure and processes, including the problems of sometimes failing to meet the standards of good journalism;

[2] To help media understand the rules of the church and other religious organizations and how they can be harmonized with the rules of the rest of society and community, including media;

[3] To lay down clear procedures in giving information to media.

Tags: Standards