Cebu Press Freedom Week
TOMORROW, September 21, is Cebu Press Freedom Day, a special holiday throughout Cebu as declared in Republic Law 11122. While the law was passed in 2018, Cebu’s media community had already institutionalized the celebration of press freedom years ago with Cebu Press Freedom Week, a series of week-long events for and by media workers from Cebu. Cebu’s 29th Press Freedom Week officially kicked off yesterday with a virtual holy mass.
Scheduled activities include forums for business journalists, the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists annual general meeting and elections, a live Facebook broadcast with senior journalists discussing the evolution of journalism over the years. years and a webinar on security of media coverage, organized by the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS). The webinar discusses safety in news coverage during the pandemic while the second part deals with the 2022 election coverage. Journalists are potential targets of politically motivated attacks as the election season heats up . We still don’t know if the July 22 murder of radio blocktimer Rey Cortes had anything to do with politics (the victim hit some local politicians and personalities in his radio commentary). I hope PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Sy Egco can provide an update on the investigation which I know is closely monitoring progress.
Rey Cortes was the eleventh media worker to be assassinated in Cebu since 1961, when newspaper editor and radio host Antonio Abad Tormis was shot dead by assassins hired by Cebu City’s treasurer at the time. The brain and the gunmen have been doomed. We hope that will happen with the Cortes murder case as well. Unresolved attacks on media workers seriously undermine the function of the media, warns lawyer Pachico Seares, former editor-in-chief of SunStar Cebu in “How we (Cebu media) record cases of Cebu journalists and other media workers who have been victims of violence or harassment. ” An updated casualty and incident tracker (or list) and Seares’ article are posted at www.cebujournalism.org. The tracker reveals that in addition to the 11 murders, 18 non-fatal incidents of assaults, threats and other forms of harassment against media workers in Cebu have been documented.
Most media workers, writes Seares, are “driven by a common goal: public welfare and the press’s duty to protect and enhance it.” By diligently documenting and reviewing every act of violence against our fellow media professionals, we are guided “in taking measures for personal and collective safety.”
Not all threats to press freedom are physical or emanate from a single, easily identifiable source, but could be more harmful than any dictator cracking down on press freedom. One of these threats is the so-called rot of truth. The Philippine Association of Communication Educators in a September 16 online forum discussed the degradation of truth and how media and information education – a subject at school – can alleviate its degradation. impact. Dr Gwenetha Pusta of the University of Santo Tomas summed up the degradation of truth as âthe diminishing role that facts, data and analysis play in our political and civil discourseâ. She presented the four trends in truth degradation (citing a 2018 RAND Corp. report) as âgrowing disagreement over objective facts and analytical interpretations of data; a blurring of the line between fact and opinion; an increasing relative volume and the resulting influence of opinion. in relation to the facts; and declining trust in key sources and information were previously viewed as factual sources of information such as government and media. “
The degradation of the truth and the barrage of false information must be drowned out “with blunt reporting on the burning issues” by the media, according to Philippine Press Institute president and president Rolando Estabillo in his message to the Cebu media as we let’s celebrate Cebu Press Freedom Week.
Returning to media and information literacy, Dr Pusta explained the importance of laying the foundations for a healthy balance between critical thinking and trust. Being overly suspicious of government is not productive and such bias can prevent us from appreciating the data diligently collected and the many beneficial government programs and policies. This point of balancing critical thinking and trust was also indirectly raised by Singapore-based Big Data analyst Wilson Chua in his presentation at the New Media Bootcamp (a project of Cebu Media technology entrepreneurs Max and Marlen Limpag ). Chua has identified some government responses to the pandemic, such as closures without warning and border checks in particular locations, as interventions that may appear arbitrary but are in reality based on careful analysis of hard data.
In short, freedom of the press for the individual journalist also means disliking his own minds, setting aside prejudices to keep an open mind so as not to miss a story or an angle that could inform and enlighten the public, including us.