The monitored as monitor

Martin Andanar
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APPARENTLY UNIQUE in the Philippine press freedom regime, the practice of appointed and elected officials’ serving as newspaper columnists, or as television or radio commentators, blurs the necessary distinction between the government as object of public scrutiny, and the free press’ critical function of monitoring government. It creates a conflict of interest between the government’s and its officials’ interest in getting favorable publicity, and the citizenry’s need for impartial reports and evaluations of events and issues of concern including government doings and policies.

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The peace talks challenge to the media

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As peace negotiations are resumed between the Philippine government and the armed social movements that for decades have been fighting for autonomy or social change, accurate and reliable information on these conflicts has become an even more critical factor in citizen capacity to contribute to the resolution of, among others, the “Bangsamoro problem” and the 47-year guerrilla war being waged by the New People’s Army (NPA) under the joint leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

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Media and power

Journalist covering an event (Lito Ocampo/CMFR)
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THE RELATIONSHIP between media and power — whether in the form of governments, business corporations, or institutions with large followings such as churches — has always been problematic.

The media are almost always the first targets of repression, whether in Indonesia during the 1965 coup and the decades that followed it; in Thailand in the present day where the military junta has taken down supposedly offensive posts in online news sites and blogs, and disallowed the holding of press forums — or in the Philippines, where, upon the declaration of martial law, the Marcos terror regime shut down newspapers and radio and TV stations, required all means of reproducing texts and photos to be registered, created a ministry of information from which all government issuances were to be sourced, seized control of the broadcast networks, and allowed only crony-owned newspapers to publish.

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Ending the debate over martial law

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FORTY-TWO years have passed since Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire country under martial law on September 23, 1972 (he signed Presidential Proclamation 1081 on September 21, implementing it only two days later). But some Filipinos still argue that things were better during the dictatorship, while others recall the way the regime ruined countless lives and inflicted on Philippine society its dark legacies of human rights violations, abuse of power, corruption and bad governance.

This year, both that practically endless debate and the Marcos family’s decades-long campaign to have the late dictator buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) marked the 42nd anniversary of Proclamation 1081. Support for the latter is often linked to the belief that the Marcos regime ushered in a period of peace and prosperity—or that, at the very least, Marcos was an authentic hero deserving the honor.

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Disaster watch

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TO THE DISASTERS that have struck the Philippines this year, the latest being typhoon “Yolanda” (International name Haiyan), the Philippine media have responded not only with regular, often by-the-hour reports, but also with the background material needed to enable their audiences to better understand why disasters happen and how to prepare for them.

Even before the advent of the rainy season, which Filipinos correctly identify with typhoons, floods, landslides and other disasters, the major broadcast networks and broadsheets were already watching the weather. As the country’s long rainy season began and deepened, they devoted significant amounts of time and space to reports on the progress of storms and typhoons and their potential and actual impact on the communities.

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Making war

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DO most of the country’s media organizations, among them the broadsheet that claims to have the largest audited circulation in the country, want war with China? Do they think the Philippines could win such a war? Do they believe the US would go to war with China in support of the country’s claim over the Scarborough Shoal?

Judging by the way they‘ve been reporting the Philippines-China impasse over the Shoal, the answer to all three questions is “yes.”

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