Media urged to cover poll issues raised by CSOs

Posted at 01/21/2010 11:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Various civil society organizations (CSOs) recently came together and urged media practitioners to cover issues that affect voters rather than just focusing on candidates.

In a roundtable discussion attended by media practitioners from different organizations as well as representatives of CSOs, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) executive director Melinda de Jesus said that the media should also cover the voters and their interests or “the people making up their minds.”

Covering issues raised by CSOs is a way of bringing the people’s voices to the public arena, de Jesus said.

The discussion was organized by CMFR with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit organization based in Washington , D.C.

Election is a game?

National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS) President Mario Taguiwalo said the campaign for the 2010 elections has been more sophisticated or modern in the use of media but the candidates’ goals are still the same: to use the high-tech tools for mudslinging other candidates.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), he said, is “weak”. It has been unable to penalize those who undertake premature campaigning.

Taguiwalo sees the elections as a game played by candidates who want to win to advance their personal interests, as well as the interests of their partners.

The referee of the game is Comelec, but it has not been unable to implement election laws and penalize corrupt politicians. He said elections do not reflect the true will of the people. Thus, people are left with no true representatives.

Taguiwalo said that it is CSOs who truly represent the interest of the people and give voice to the public. However, he said CSOs must have an avenue--the media--to be able to perform this function.

Watch the video: NIPs President Mario Taguiwalo talks about the 3 reasons why the media should give importance to CSOs in the "complex" 2010 elections.

Why cover CSOs?

Different CSOs are rich pools for resource persons, Taguiwalo said. This should fit the needs of media since they are looking for "independent and responsible informants."

Since an election is highly partisan in nature, experts from independent and credible CSOs make for good resource persons.

He disclosed that the NIPs is the Liberal Party's policy group. (Read this special report to know more about CSOs and how some groups become partisan: Search for leaders unifies advocacy groups)

Watch the video: Atty. Rona Caritos of LENTE (Legal Network for Truthful Elections Inc.) enumerates the probable top 5 election cases in an automated 2010 elections. LENTE is a network of law practitioners who provide legal assistance in election-related cases. These are issues media could pay more attention to in case May 2010 elections will be automated.

A truly free press?

One problem, however, is that CSOs are not heard because they “compete with bigger, sexier events,” de Jesus said. She added that these events may be dictated by politicians.

After the November 23 Maguindanao massacre, de Jesus said the media did not focus on how the prime suspect Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.’s family rose to power, and how much support the Ampatuans got from the national government.

The media, she said, covered the press conferences and hearings of the Ampatuans.

Some journalists who attended the roundtable discussion said they were torn between covering the country's worst political kiling and other major breaking news.

Disasters at sea and the eruption of the Mayon volcano were events they needed to report as well.

Media ethics and allegations of corruption involving journalists in the Maguindanao massacre were also discussed.

There are reports that the Mangudadatus gave financial support to some of the 30 journalists so they would cover the filing the certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor of Esmael Mangudadatu. .

De Jesus asked: When journalists cannot go to a place to cover important events or issues due to financial constraints, “does that qualify the press as free and autonomous?”

It was also pointed out that the brute force used to kill innocent civilians may add to the climate of fear that many journalists in local areas are faced with. Journalists might not be able to cover issues and events freely because they are afraid.

Issues important to CSOs

The roundtable discussion was attended by representatives of various media organizations and CSOs which include:

1) Movement for Good Governance (MGG)

2) National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)

3) LENTE

4) Youth Vote Philippines

5) First Time Voters Network

6) Change Politics Movement (CPM)

7) Rock Ed Philippines

8) Blogwatch.ph

These groups raised issues and advocacies which they felt news organizations do not cover enough.

The incompleteness of the Comelec's General Instructions (GI) on the May 10 automated polls was raised by National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) secretary-general Eric Alvia.

The GI for Comelec’s contingency plan--in case the machines fail--for canvassing and for random audit is yet to be released, Alvia said.

The issue of having good leaders with integrity was stressed by MGG representative Milwida Guevara.

Incorruptible voters are needed in the May 10 polls, said former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman. Soliman is part of CPM, a partisan advocacy group supporting Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

The youth groups were very concerned about educating young voters, especially those voting for the first time.

Rock Ed Philippines’ Gang Badoy said one of their goals is to make “spoiled teenagers care about national issues.”

Blogwatch.ph’s Noemi Lardizabal-Dado said that they want to educate young voters by giving emphasis on election campaign finance and relevant election laws.