Forums tackle gov’t transparency, media challenges

THE Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) approved a resolution requesting local government units (LGU) in Cebu, especially in urban centers, to publicize documents, papers, contracts and the like in their websites or digital media accounts or platforms.

This was one of the five resolutions the CCPC, headed by lawyer Pachico Seares, its executive director, approved during its 49th en banc meeting at the Marcelo B. Fernan Press Center on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019.

The council believes that LGUs can better disseminate public records in their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts or on their blogs or websites.

By encouraging LGUs to make a full disclosure about “any records, documents, papers, reports, letters, contracts, minutes and transcripts of meetings,” including sound and video recording, news media and the general public will have easy and convenient access to information.

On July 23, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 2, or the Freedom of Information Order, “operationalizing in the Executive Branch the people’s constitutional right to information and the state policies to full public disclosure and transparency in the public service...”

The council also agreed to pass resolutions urging the President and the leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives, through their respective committees, to finally approve a number of bills seeking to improve access to public information and government transparency like the bill seeking to amend the venue of libel.

Seares said the bill to amend the venue of libel is to make sure that a journalist can be sued civilly or criminally for libel only in the Regional Trial Court of the province or city where his principal place of work or business is located.

During the forum on how media and the public can fight falsehood and disinformation, Rev. Fr. Ramon Echica, CCPC board member, said the best antidote to fake news is an educated and committed citizenry.

“Evolving platforms”

“Technically, these things are outside the realm of media, but we need also our citizens to know how to reason out and discern. Lastly, for the media practitioners to also learn how to apologize if we are proven wrong or if it’s proven that we have fallen for fake news,” he said.

The CCPC is a forum for media issues and for airing grievance based in Cebu. Its objective is to defend press freedom and promote professional journalism.

In a separate forum, “The News in Challenging Times,” also held at the Marcelo B. Fernan Cebu Press Center on Thursday, Ana Marie Pamintuan, editor-in-chief of The Philippine Star, said, “Journalism is not dying. What is evolving are the platforms.”

The forum talked about the challenges the media industry is facing, which were presented by Manuel Mogato, editor-at-large of News5 Digital. One of these is the need to level up the story presentation of the news in the presence of social media.

During the reaction part of the program, Suzanne Alueta, program manager of GMA 7 Cebu’s “Balitang Bisdak,” said mainstream media still finds it difficult to persuade people to watch their news, especially when these have already been posted all over social media.

Another challenge is the need to validate and verify news on social media. The media will have to correct news that spread on social media, especially viral posts, considering that citizen journalism only shows one side of the story. It is the media’s job to correct biased reporting.

Low salary and additional libel were also brought up during the forum, as well as libel cases lodged against media practitioners.

But amid these challenges, Pamintuan said media is offering more opportunities to communication students.

“Even if we are downsizing, we are still getting new talent, mostly people skilled in multi-platform,” she said.

Meanwhile, Alueta reminded communication students to clear their minds and to think of the reason why they took up mass communication in the first place.

“Journalism is a vocation. You have to have that inner drive and passion to report and to make some changes on what you are reporting,” Alueta said.

Students and professors of different universities in Cebu attended the forum. (WBS, KFD)