By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan and Mariela Angela Oladive
The country’s first journalism guide produced by Western Visayas journalists was introduced in Iloilo City at the University of the Philippines Visayas’ (UPV) on Monday, September 4.
The Western Visayas Journalists’ Guide is edited by Dr. Zoilo Andrada of the Division of Humanities and Ms. Gerthrode Charlotte Tan-Mabilog, the head of UPV’s Information and Publication Office.
The guide includes data on the media landscape of the region, online reporting, safety and security, ethical considerations for multi-platform reporting, and newsroom practices.
Andrada, UPV’s former project development assistant for mass media and the brains behind the university’s Bantala Media Excellence Awards, explained that the guidelines were the output of a seminar-workshop joined by media practitioners from Aklan, Capiz, the city and province of Iloilo, and Bacolod City.
The gab in June 2023 was hosted by Bantala and the newly formed Iloilo Media-Citizen Council (IMCC), with support from the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), the national association of newspapers in the country, and the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
UPV Chancellor Clement Camposano called the guidelines a ‘timely response’ in anticipation of future instances where freedom of the press may be abused.
“The freedom of the press will eventually become very problematic[.] I don’t think that we need to dwell on those issues. I think as media practitioners, you already know the pitfalls. You have faced these challenges in your professional lives. So, we think that, unless we also provide a strong impetus for the constant improvement of the state of journalism, unless we provide the advocacy to support the effort of the media in improving their craft, then our advocacy of press freedom will always fall short,” Camposano said.
“I think the bigger achievement here is the fact that we are able to come together and discuss this and I hope that you will be more open with this kind of engagement. I think the university has its role that is more cut out for it in this new landscape that we can help pose some questions together with you and together we can explore answers, maybe tentative answers. When the time comes we really hope to engage you as we bring up some of the questions that come our way,” he added.
The guide will be formally launched during the ‘Media Citizen Councils: For the Media and Citizens, By the Media and Citizens’, to be held on September 16 at the UPV Auditorium, an initiative of ITP Media Asia – Philippines Batch 2 fellows.
Andrada said the guidelines serve as a response to media disruption, which had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Evidently in the assessment of the effects of media disruptions, rein-size of local media outlets. Studies of digital transition and media convergence led to focus heavily on national media organizations and leave out the narrative of regional local news organizations. Therefore, it is important to closely look into the regional news organizations, eventual adaptation and its suspectively response to media disruptions,” Andrada said.
Tan-Mabilog, who is currently both a broadcast journalist and Media and Information Literacy teacher at UP High School-Iloilo, said that it would also be a useful resource for senior high school and college students studying in journalism and communication-related courses.
“It will introduce the kind of advocacy and standards to the new generation of young learners to have a very concrete set of [media] values, for them to be able to use,” she said.
Daily Guardian editor-in-chief Francis Allan Angelo, who is also a PPI Trustee for the Visayas and a founding member of the IMCC, explained that this was a product of the International Training Program (ITP) – Media Asia Philippines Batch 2, a program supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation.
The fellowship, which Angelo attended, in part observed and examined the self-regulation processes and practices in Sweden, which in turn led to the creation of the IMCC with support from the PPI.
He said that the guidelines cannot be treated similarly to a law, clarifying that it is only intended to be a guidepost for responsible media practice.
“When it comes to self-regulation it means accountability, the media council is the answer to the question, ‘The media is the watchdog of the society, but who watches the watchdog?’ It’s the society itself, it’s the citizen, so that’s the concept of media council,” Angelo said.
“The guidelines [are] not an imposition, it’s a guide, which is holistic. This is just a compilation that could help to reinforce our personal codes of practice,” he added.