Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Statement on the CCPC resolution on Asean summit

December 8th, 2006 · No Comments

Malacañang distortion

Dec. 6 press release of Malacañang, apparently picked up from the government-run Philippines News Agency (PNA), did not present the true context of the resolution approved by the Cebu Citizens-Press Council last Dec. 5.

One, the press release omitted a vital part of the resolution that qualifies the appeal. The following proviso in the resolution was deleted from the p.r.:

“Without restricting individual journalists’ freedom of the press and news organizations’ editorial prerogative, or infringing on public officials’ right to reply and correct any misinformation.”

That provision was precisely included to avert any misunderstanding that it is a gag or a restriction on anyone.

Two, the Malacañang press release added the phrase “so that their actions could not fuel negative reporting by the media.” That is nowhere found in the resolution.

Background of resolution

The resolution was raised at the CCPC amid the running feud between the governor’s office and an ABS-CBN radio commentator, which already departed from substantive issues and descended into name-calling. Capitol hung streamers at the CICC (the convention center) and ran a paid ad in one newspaper castigating the broadcaster while the commentator spent his time hitting back. In Cebu, that got into many concerned citizens’ nerves.

CCPC is composed of seven media members (five from print, two from KBP), two from the academe, and six from the public.

It was the non-media and academe sector that expressed most interest in the CCPC resolution. As to the media sector, the only reservation was from one member who feared suspicion of journalists being gagged. Thus, the stress on that provison which the Malacañang press release omitted.

The resolution was passed on mass motion, indicating unanimity..

CCPC’s reason for being: complaints — and issues

Perhaps unlike other press councils, CCPC’s reason for being is not just complaints but issues. It speaks out on issues and adopts standards for journalists.

There have been only four complaints from the public so far and these have not even reached the review level since the papers concerned acted on them.

On standards, it has adopted two, both on sensitive areas in local news coverage:

  • Identifying and handling suspects of crimes, by media and by the police;
  • Naming or identifying priests and other religious officials.

These standards, by the way, were adopted after consultations and the journalists and the officials or news sources involved.

On issues, CCPC authored and lobbied for the passage of a bill changing the venue of libel (often used to harass community journalists by complainants who file their cases far away from their place of operations) and a bill seeking to include broadcast journalists within the protection of the Sotto Law.

The second and most recent issue was the media-government quarrel over side issues of the Asean summit.

Does CCPC tell journalists what to do?

First, be it on standards of journalism or on public issues involving journalists, the CCPC never orders anyone; it asks, appeals, or encourages. It only has persuasive authority, nothing more.

Second, media is amply represented in CCPC; the five print media members are top editors of the five daily newspapers in Cebu; the two broadcasters are the top leaders of the KBP. When CCPC asks, appeals to, or encourages media, it is also media asking, appealing, or encouraging itself. How can CCPC be telling media what to do on something media itself agrees with and consents to?

That Asean summit resolution was passed on mass motion, with no dissent from any media member. The CCPC resolution was in part media telling media what it can do.

Media can’t isolate itself from public concerns

When we re-tooled the CCPC, we had in mind a media sector not wrapped up in its own concerns, its freedom and accountability. Media in CCPC must also consider what the public sector in CCPC thinks.

The public sector in CCPC worried about the personal quarrels over petty issues in the Asean summit, caused by both sides. What could CCPC do about it? The media members were asked.

The appeal resolution was the result, which the CCPC members believe didn’t tamper with or intrude into the best practices of individual journalists and news organizations.

What we’re doing in Cebu works. Other than that, we’re not much concerned about anyone else saying it doesn’t.

Acting Executive Director
Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Tags: Announcements

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