Trojan horse

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INTERVIEWING University of the Philippines student Marjohara Tucay, editor of the UP student newspaper The Philippine Collegian, GMA7 TV’s Howie Severino implied in so many words that by expressing his opposition to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) during a GMA7 TV event with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Tucay was in violation of the ethics of journalism. Severino asked if what Tucay did was reflective of the kind of journalism his generation was being taught. Severino argued that the journalist’s task is merely to cover events, to be “objective” and not engage his or her subjects in debate.

And yet that was what Severino was doing. While demanding “objectivity” on the part of Tucay, Severino was being so “objective” he was haranguing the latter in favor of his own views — and over his own network, which also described Tucay as the student editor who disrupted (nanggulo) the GMA7 event. Was the media spectacle GMA7 and Severino put in place in behalf of Clinton indicative of what his generation has learned about journalism?

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The Massacre watch

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WHEN THE Ampatuan Town Massacre of November 23, 2009 occurred and its brutal details were known, it provoked attempts at self-examination among many media advocacy and journalists’ groups, and even in some of the newspapers and broadcast networks that for years had been ignoring the killing of journalists.

Among the questions these groups and some communication academics asked then, and have since been asking, is whether the Massacre has imposed on the media such supposedly additional responsibilities as providing more information than the daily news agenda makes available, and analysis and interpretation beyond the usual front-page, op-ed and evening news menu of politics and scandal.

The Massacre has since become an international symbol of the perils journalists face in failing and failed states (international media watch and press freedom groups have declared November 23, 2011 the International Day to End Impunity). It was not only election-related. It was also the worst attack in Philippine history on the press as a necessary institution of democracy.

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Closure

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THE NEED for closure was among the reasons Justice Secretary Laila de Lima cited to put in context her denial of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s petition for travel abroad. Closure is what has eluded Filipinos most when it comes to the most critical events and issues that have confronted this country since its independence was restored.

De Lima acknowledged that the decision was political, but based as well on legal considerations and an evaluation of Mrs. Arroyo’s medical condition: “It may be political. One thing’s for sure, it’s more than medical or legal. It may be a combination of all, but what’s important is that it will serve the ends of justice.”

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All-out deception

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THE Philippines has a former advertising executive for tourism secretary in Ramon Jimenez. In his TV and other media appearances, Jimenez exudes confidence from every pore as he carries on in his American-accented English about his plans to turn this country into a tourist haven, mostly by hyping its virtues and concealing its vices.

That’s standard technique among some advertising practitioners when they’re pushing a cheap product, whether it’s a skin-whitening cream or a snake-oil cure for cancer. But it’s especially useful in promoting the Philippines as a tourist destination.

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