Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Magna Carta for Journalists opposed

September 19th, 2013 · No Comments


(Sen. Jinggoy P. Ejercito Estrada introduced Senate Bill 380, “An Act Providing a Magna Carta for Journalists,” on July 3, 2013.)

THE BILL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. It imposes restrictions on freedom to write and speak in media by requiring board examination or interview for journalists to be accredited. Accreditation supposedly entitles a journalist to receive benefits from the government. Without accreditation and an ID card from the Philippine Council of Journalists (PCJ), a journalist is considered a second-class worker.

It singles out journalists out of several workers and employees and thus violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Why should journalists be deemed a special sector? Journalists don’t want special treatment.

While the PCJ will be composed of leaders of media organizations, by implementing the law it becomes an agency of the government and thus interferes with the functions of the press.

THE BILL IS IMPRACTICAL. It doesn’t recognize conditions in the media landscape. In setting wages and benefits, there are many variables: the nature of the media firm, whether it is a community paper or a national tabloid, a local company or a foreign news organization, a broadcast network or a small radio station, as well as the skills of the journalist, be he an editor or a reporter, a new anchorperson or a well-known talent. Leave wages and benefits to the market forces and negotiations between employers and employees.

A board examination cannot gauge skills of a journalist. Only actual experience enables the employer to determine a would-be journalist’s capacity to do the job.

It creates the PCJ which requires news organizations to administer the rules governing the press. Most of the said organizations may refuse to do and may not recognize some of the other news organizations listed in the bill. News organizations operate separately, not as one big group, surely not as an instrument of the state.

THE BILL IS UNNECESSARY. It purportedly aims to professionalize the practice of journalism. But each newspaper or broadcast station has its own standards and values and its own system of accreditation. Groups like the KBP, the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), or, regionally, the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) have programs and projects to improve skills and enhance values of journalists.

The author said the bill aims to remove “haosiaos” from the media. Each news outlet or media organization has been policing ranks of media. Ironically, dubious media flourish because government offices and officials recognize or support them.

THEREFORE, WE AT CEMLA RECOMMEND TO CCPC that it oppose the bill. The bill doesn’t create rights; on the contrary, it tries to impinge on free press and free speech. Media cannot be the watchdog of government if it is muzzled by government under the guise of improving its skills and increasing its benefits. LEAVE MEDIA ALONE.

Sept. 19, 2013

Tags: CCPC Papers and Resolutions · Cebu Media Legal Aid

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