Fight prior restraint; oppose Rodriguez brothers’ Magna Carta bill for journalists

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nujp-logoStatement: National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

What about, “Thanks, but no thanks,” do brothers Rufus and Maximo Rodriguez not understand?

The two have filed House Bill 2550 with the utterly misleading title “Magna Carta for Journalists” that would require aspiring journalists — in broadcast, print and photography — to pass an accreditation exam.

We do not wish to denigrate the undoubtedly good intentions of the brothers Rodriguez but perhaps they missed reading the news a few months back when media organizations turned down a similar bill filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada.

As we have said before and will continue to say unequivocally, we oppose any and all attempt to subject journalism to any form of accreditation or licensing for the simple reason that, while it is true that journalism is a profession within the media industry, it is first and foremost part of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech and of expression.

In short, aside from the professional and ethical standards those who work for various media outfits need to adhere to by reason of their employment, anyone and everyone can and should be able to practice journalism without being discriminated against by virtue of some misguided criteria.

It would be akin to determining who can and cannot speak out freely.

Which makes us wonder how this proposed law can be called a “Magna Carta” or Great Charter when it will end up emasculating, not strengthening, and certainly not expanding the boundaries of, journalism.

The Rodriguez brothers’ bill is also illogical.

Accreditation exams are commonly understood as mechanisms to determine whether one is qualified to practice a regulated profession, such as medicine, nursing, engineering and the like. In other words, you don’t pass the exam you don’t get your license and the right to practice your profession.

And yet, HB 2550 says the “non-accredited,” presumably those who either fail to pass or do not take the exam, can still work for media outfits.

Which makes the whole accreditation idea superfluous.

The bill also exempts those who have been working in the profession for 10 years and more from taking the exam. This, again, is not only illogical, it is also patently illegal for it infringes on the rights not only of those who have been employed as journalists for less than 10 years by, in effect, downgrading their status, and also on the right of media managements to choose who is or is not qualified for employment.

Instead of pushing their bill, we suggest that the Rodriguez support instead the passage of the People’s FOI Bill and Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones’ House Bill 2568, which would require government agencies to act promptly on requests for information from media, perhaps even help improve the latter measure by including all requests for information from citizens of the Republic.

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