Media council to stand as conciliation body for news reportage complaints

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor and Mariela Angella Oladive

The Iloilo Media-Citizen Council (IMCC) will serve as a regulation and reconciliation body for complaints about news reportage of its member news organizations.

Francis Allan Angelo, interim chairperson of the Iloilo Media-Citizen Council, said that complaints must be reported first to the concerned news outlet before the council can intervene if there is a lack of action or the complainant is unsatisfied.

“If someone feels that they were not given the chance to reply or air their side on an issue, the council can come in and mediate,” he said.

Angelo pointed out that this is to settle the dispute or issue before a suit is filed in court.

The council will operate on two levels: complaints and issues within the tenets of fairness, accuracy, and protection of the vulnerable sectors of society, such as women, children, and persons with disabilities, among others.

“All throughout the process mediation talaga ang gagawin. Wala tayong pagagalitan. We will not be punitive. Wala tayong parurusahan, but we will just try to mediate between the two parties,” he noted.

“We know that we cannot control everything when it comes to media and news reporting but at least the public and our colleagues in the media can see something tangible na pwedeng makatulong sa isa’t isa when it comes to settling disputes on news reporting,” he added.

Angelo further highlighted that media organizations and professionals should monitor and maintain their own standards and ethical practices to fulfill their role as watchdogs of society effectively.

“Media self-regulation is basically the answer to the question: If [the] media is the watchdog of society, who watches the watchdogs? Us, ourselves, we should look up to our own conduct,’ he stressed.

The Code of Practice and Rules of Procedure of the council are still working documents according to Angelo.

“They are still being polished by the council and members until we can actually sign off the two documents and we can start the process of registering with the SEC Commission,” he said.

The IMCC has a multi-sectoral membership composition which includes print media organizations, broadcast radio, blogger organizations, professional groups, private sector, academe, and youth.

The council will have a set of officers and will operate through an executive editor. The interim executive editor of the council is Atty. Jeremy Bionat of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Iloilo Chapter.

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza led the oath-taking and induction of officers of the IMCC during the day-long “Media Citizen Councils: For the Media and Citizens, By the Media and Citizens” conference on September 16 at the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) Auditorium.

Philippine Press Institute executive director Ariel Sebellino said the council is distinct from traditional press councils as it covers the elements of both media self-regulation and co-regulation.

“This is a trailblazer, there is nothing like it in the whole world […] I don’t know how you would describe a council that incorporates both self-regulation and co-regulation and puts emphasis on the uniqueness of a contemporary media citizen council. This is for you, it has to work for you,” he said.

UPV Chancellor Clement Camposano lauded the launching of the local media council, noting that press freedom and democratic ideals have deep roots in Iloilo, making it a bastion of press freedom.

“The establishment of the Iloilo Media-Citizen Council and the crafting of the Journalists’ Guide are pathbreaking initiatives, not only in responsible journalism but also in media citizenship. Because genuine freedom comes with a commitment to serve the common good,” he said.

The conference was initiated by a group of journalists advocating for media self-regulation to protect press freedom.

The group joined a fellowship in Sweden hosted by the Swedish International Development Agency and NIRAS on media self-regulation.

The team includes Francis Allan Angelo of Daily Guardian, Lita Jane Cadalig of the Kordilyera Media-Citizen Council and Baguio Midland Courier, Janvic Mateo of UP Diliman, Paul Soriano of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Mia Mateo-Embalzado of Cebu Citizens-Press Council and UP Cebu, Bea Cupin of Rappler, Arlene Burgos of ABS-CBN, and Catherine Valente of The Manila Times. Prof. Gary Mariano is the team’s national facilitator.

The conference was jointly organized by the IMCC, Philippine Press Institute, International Media Support, and UP Visayas. It is also supported by Metro Pacific Iloilo Water, MERALCO PowerGen Corporation-Global Business Power, The Manila Times, and the Peace & Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON).