By Rowena Paraan
Predicating the recent spate of killings and harassment of journalists and media workers as his justification, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada has filed the Magna Carta for Journalists (SB 380).
Under this measure, “legitimate” media organizations will be organized into a body—Philippine Council for Journalists (PCJ)—who will give “Professional Journalist Examinations” and will therefore, be “accredited,” and “non-accredited journalists” who fail the examinations but will ostensibly be “allowed” to continue their practice.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines welcomes efforts to protect and promote freedom of the press and of expression, and to ensure the safety and welfare of the country’s media practitioners and workers.
However, while recognizing the good intentions behind the move, we respectfully again beg Sen. Estrada to withdraw the bill.
We have said it before, when Mr. Estrada filed this same bill during the 14th Congress, we cannot subscribe to the notion of subjecting journalists to accreditation for purposes of regulating the profession.
Obviously not by any state agency and no, not even through peer accreditation.
We find it equally disturbing that under SB380, only accredited journalists shall be entitled to all benefits and privileges accorded them by the law, their employers and the PCJ.
This, to say the least, is a frightening possibility and one that would see journalists, wittingly or unwittingly, discriminating against each other.
And given the deteriorating state of media welfare, we also fear this would give employers even more leeway to reduce or even deptrive their media staff of the wages, benefits due them and the right to collectively bargain through a union.
Journalism—as a profession—should be as independent as possible because of journalists’ role as watchdogs in the service of the people’s right to know and to free expression. The same goes for media as an institution of a democratic society.
Thus, the only qualifications journalists should be subject to are those imposed by the outfits that hire them and, for others who work independent of regular employers, the code of ethics that the profession has adopted.
As a media organization, the NUJP—which Mr. Estrada proposes for membership in the PCJ—works for the safety and welfare of Filipino journalists and media workers. We have never seen it as one of our role to judge who is fit or unfit to be a journalist.
We do thank Sen. Estrada for his continued concern for ensuring an independent Philippine media but we respectfully urge him to withdraw his bill, and to instead support the clamor for the enactment of other much-needed measures such as the much-delayed Freedom of Information Act.