By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News | 11/23/2012 3:45 PM
TAGAYTAY—President Aquino called on media organizations to come up with “consistent standards” to address various issues confronting journalists, including corruption in their ranks.
Adopting a more “diplomatic” tone this time, Aquino said he is speaking not as President but as a media consumer who reads newspapers and watches news programs and that he has “said nothing that your own readers, viewers, and listeners have not already said themselves.”
Aquino stressed the need to come up with “parameters” to address conflicts of interest in the profession, including rules on commercial endorsements and sourcing.
He also urged media practitioners to draw the line between straight reporting and opinion making.
“It also falls upon you to enlighten the public further on the difference between opinion and reportage. These days, the line between the two seems thin and easily crossed. This is already a topic of debate within your ranks, which perhaps gives you an added impetus to settle the issues once and for all,” he said during the 9th MediaNation summit.
Saying that he is not pushing for a more active role for government to regulate media, Aquino suggested that media organizations come up with a mechanism for redress for media consumers who may feel aggrieved by what the see in media, just as the government has an Ombudsman where the public can complain about erring government officials.
“When anyone is unhappy with how a media person conducts himself, what are the mechanisms for redress? Citizens can go to the Ombudsman when it comes to public officials. Who can Juan dela Cruz run to in your industry? Of course, no one can answer these questions as effectively and as practically as you can—and there is a great need for these answers,” he said.
To combat corruption in media, Aquino proposed that media owners take a look into the pay and benefits that the lowly reporters receive compared to the high “standards of integrity demanded of them.”
“Given the hard work they do and the high standards everyone should demand of them, it becomes legitimate to ask whether their pay and benefits are commensurate to the highest standards of integrity demanded of them,” he said.
Speaking about media killings, Aquino stressed that the administration is committed to safeguarding the journalism profession. He said the administration has worked towards the arrest of perpetrators and the filing of charges, citing the suspension of governor who assaulted a broadcaster.
He is hoping that judicial reform will contribute to the speedy resolution of cases.
“We must have courts that are impartial and fair in the verdicts they hand down. If the courts demonstrate impunity at the top, then the lowest regional trial courts will follow suit. This is why I have been so focused on reforming our justice system,” he said.
He asked the media to keep an open mind to proposals about the right of reply, for instance, and urged media to participate in a dialogue to arrive at a “fair” consensus.
“Basic fairness should suggest that these proposals are not motivated merely by hostility to media, but that there may be cases where people are genuinely and justifiably aggrieved. Instead of shutting the door, let us engage in respectful dialogue, so that we can reach a consensus that is fair to all concerned,” he said.
He said the decriminalization of libel should not be a license to commit it.
Aquino noted the challenge for media to address these issues, given the rise of social media “where enforcement and the spread of information can take place on the level of the common citizen.
“The very standards that have allowed media to be considered the fourth estate—vetting facts, objectivity in reportage, and speaking truth to power—are all challenged by the need to break the story first. Success or failure is now measured in milliseconds, where you must be the first to tweet, or post online,” he said.
Aquino asked media to share the people's "core values," saying that media consumers can tell when one is being unfair or unreasonable.
He said he continues to believe that media is a “bulwark of freedom” that can empower people.
Aquino held a close-door dialogue with media owners after delivering his speech.