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Is There a Need for Media Accountability? ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON THE FORMATION OF A PRESS COUNCIL Red Batario, Executive Director Center for Community.

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Presentation on theme: "Is There a Need for Media Accountability? ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON THE FORMATION OF A PRESS COUNCIL Red Batario, Executive Director Center for Community."— Presentation transcript:

1 Is There a Need for Media Accountability? ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON THE FORMATION OF A PRESS COUNCIL Red Batario, Executive Director Center for Community Journalism and Development

2 Accountable to whom?

3 Journalism as social covenant?  Journalists as community stakeholders  Building avenues for dialogue and discourse as part of the journalistic process  Examining what’s wrong, reporting what’s working  People not merely as audience or market but as a public that is participative and deliberative  Journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens

4 Journalism of verification? Discipline of verification separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction or art  Entertainment focuses on what is most diverting  Propaganda selects facts or invent them to persuade and manipulate  Fiction invents scenarios to provide a more personal impression of what it calls truth  Journalism alone is focused first on getting what happened down right

5 Journalists as independent monitors of power?  The watchdog principle means more than simply monitoring government but should extend to all powerful institutions in society  The notion of the press as being there to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable misconstrues the meaning of watchdog  More accurately it means watching over the powerful few on society on behalf of the many to guard against tyranny

6 Journalism that is transparent and accountable? On the lack of support from American journalists for press councils, someone said: “We believe that accountability is a two-way street, and those who demand transparency from all other institutions of society deserve outside scrutiny as well.” He said the remedy continues to be hard work and dogged persistence in making people understand that media affect every segment of society and that many people actually have issues with the press and, once informed of the value of accountability, support the Council’s cause.

7 Journalism that is transparent and accountable? Communicate to the public professional and ethical standards, for example, through something like a Readers or Viewers Bill of Rights that would list down:  What the news organization and the people who work in it stand for  What the public can expect  How the public can provide reaction and feedback Reference materials from Slides 4-7 based on the book “The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

8 Right of Reply IS THERE A NEED FOR ONE?

9 The proposed ROR bill Senate Bill No AN ACT GRANTING THE RIGHT OF REPLY AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION THEREOF SECTION 1. Right of Reply. -All persons natural or juridical who are accused directly or indirectly of committing or having committed or of intending to commit any crime or offense defined by law or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply to the charges published or printed in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or to criticisms aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites, or through any electronic device.

10 The proposed ROR bill House Bill No AN ACT GRANTING THE RIGHT OF REPLY AND PROVIDING PENALTIES IN VIOLATION THEREOF Section 1. Right of Reply – All persons natural or juridical who are accused directly or indirectly of committing, having committed, or of intending to commit any crime or offense defined by law; or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply to charges or criticisms published or printed in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites, or through any electronic device.

11 Section 2 Where Reply Published. -The reply of the person so accused or criticized shall be published in the same space of the newspapers, magazine, newsletter or publication or aired over the same program on radio, television, website, or any electronic device concerned.

12 Section 3 When Published. -The reply shall be published or broadcast not later than three (3) days after the reply shall have been delivered to the editorial office of the publication concerned or to the station that carried the broadcast being replied to.

13 SEC. 4. Length of Reply. -The reply shall not be longer than the accusation or criticism as published or broadcast. SEC. 5. Free of Charge. -The publication or broadcast of the reply shall be free of charge, payment or fees. SEC. 6. Editing Reply. -The reply as such shall be published or broadcast except for libelous allegations.

14 Section 7. Penalties The editor-in-chief, the publisher or station manager, or owner of the broadcast medium who fails or refuses to publish or broadcast the reply as mandated in the preceding section shall be fined in an amount not exceeding Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) for the first offense; Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00)for the second offense; and Thirty thousand pesos (P30, ) for the third offense. Thereafter, for repeated failures or refusals to publish or broadcast the reply as mandated herein, a fine of Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00)shall be imposed. Moreover, if the offender is a public official, he shall be subject to administrative liability under existing Civil Service laws. The court may also recommend that proper sanctions be imposed by any appropriate mass media organizations on erring editors-in-chief, publishers, station managers or owners of media concerned.

15 Opposing Views

16 “The reality is we need it (right of reply). There has to be a mechanism to clear your name, although of course that’s not a guarantee you’d be able to totally clear your name with a right of reply, but at least there’s an institution.” -- Deputy House Speaker Georgidi Aggabao on the inclusion of many lawmakers in the “Napol- list” and the issue of a newspaper not publishing the side of a colleague

17 “I’m not comfortable legislating editorial policy, which is how I view the right of reply in its current form. I think media really must be discerning in reporting about the scams these days. Reputations are destroyed by the stroke of the pen. We must apply all the basic tenets of responsible journalism such as accuracy, fair treatment, and objectivity in our reporting.” – Ifugao representative Teddy Baguilat

18 “I found it an excellent bill, since all of us, criminal or not, has the right to express our feelings, views and the right to defend our self from any accusation. This bill comes at the right time as media in this generation is much influential, persuading societies that once a person gets accused he is a criminal already, forgetting that a person is innocent until he is proven guilty. “The Bill did not violate press freedom nor human rights and instead strengthens the rights of individuals to preserve their dignity and autonomy. “ – online response to ROR from a certain RM Gutang

19 As the National Union of People’s Lawyers has pointed out, the words “innuendo,” “suggestion” and “rumor” have to be defined, because they give a person a legal right. What is “innuendo,” which gives one the right to reply in a newspaper article? What is not innuendo, where does one draw the line? When does the right to reply arise? If a man is arrested for killing, mutilating and raping a four-year-old girl and the story made headlines, does the suspect now has the right to say he was not guilty, in the same 72 size font that was used for the headline? Despite the fact that the story was based on police records, photographs, videos (of the mutilation, he was a sicko who taped the deed) and witnesses’ testimony? He might be guilty as hell, but until convicted in court, after a trial, he is only accused of committing a crime. May he avail himself of this Right to Reply? If a TV station airs the five-minute video of the mutilation, does that give the suspect five minutes of air time to deny the crime? – journalist Dana Batnag, in a blog post in 2009

20 The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a coalition of media and media advocacy organizations founded to address the killing of journalists and to defend journalists under threat:  Objects to any ROR law or provision concealed in any other law  Any ROR law will undermine editorial prerogative to decide what to publish or broadcast  Will open floodgates for people who would claim they have been denied the right of reply  Right of Reply is inherent in the ethical imperatives of fairness, which mandates the presentation of all sides in a controversy  The coercive power of the law is not needed since Philippine media are already practicing self- regulation  The abuse of any right is a risk in a democracy, the alternative absence being the denial of that right

21 US Supreme Court Decision on declaring the Florida law on ROR unconstitutional The Court also said: “The power of a privately owned newspaper to advance its own political, social and economic views is bounded by only two factors: first, the acceptance of a sufficient number of readers— and hence advertisers—to assure financial success; and, second, the journalistic integrity of its editors and publishers….The clear implication has been that any such compulsion to publish that which ‘reason’ tells them should not be published is unconstitutional. A responsible press is an undoubtedly desirable goal, but press responsibility is not mandated by the Constitution and like many other virtues it cannot be legislated.” I might also add that a right of reply in the context of current Philippine society today will not really add anything to what people who pay attention to media already know. Newspaper readers, radio listeners and television viewers already are bombarded with assertive reporting, some straight and others biased, and opposing opinions of columnists. The strong temptation in fact is to ignore them or sometimes to go over media, just for fun, as a vacuum cleaner would—only to look for dirt. -- Fr. Joaquin Bernas in his November 18, 2012 column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

22 So where will all these lead us? SOME POINTS TO PONDER IN THE NEXT SESSION

23 Other citizen-media engagement mechanisms

24 CENTER FOR COMMUNITY JOURNALISM AND DEVELOPMENT CITIZEN ACTION NETWORK FOR LGU ACCOUNTABILITY (CANA)


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