JOURNALISTS AND POLITICIANS have always had an uneasy, troubled, and troubling relationship, whether in those countries that are, or which claim to be democracies, and even in dictatorships. But in this country where politics rules both during and between elections, the relationship has sometimes been lethal.
The “Fourth Estate” function of monitoring government often puts competent and honest journalists on a collision course with government officials whether appointed or elected, and with those politicians running for public office during election season. For the dishonest, paid partisanship leads to the same, at times deadly course with his or her patron’s rivals.
THE British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been an icon of public broadcasting since it was founded in 1927, and is often mentioned as a model worthy of emulation in the campaign for an authentic public broadcasting system in the Philippines.
Its first director-general declared that impartiality is the essence of professional broadcasting. It has a reputation for independence, a virtue supposedly assured by the funding of its television, radio and online services through a mandated share in the license fee on every transmitting device (e.g., TV and radio sets) sold in Britain regardless of what government, whether Labor or Conservative, is in power.
It shouldn’t be solely a matter of law. But the tempest over the Commission on Election’s warning that mass media practitioners who are candidates for public office this May or endorsers of candidates should go on leave or resign from their home media organizations has been uniformly about what the Fair Election Act of 2001 mandates.
The provision involved is Section 6.6: “Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned, if so required by [his or her] employer, or shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period.”
The kidnapping of ABS-CBN anchor Ces Drilon has again raised and underscored a number of professional and ethical issues in Philippine journalism practice.
The professional issues certainly include the need for media organizations to adopt guidelines in the coverage of crisis and conflict situations. As a companion to those guidelines, safety training for those likely to be covering crisis and conflict situations has also become more and more urgent.