By REBECCA OLORVIDA
MANILA – For a credible election to occur, there needs to be credible media.
This was the overall theme of the Dec. 15 webinar titled Safely Covering the 2022 Elections, where journalists gave tips and guidelines in covering the next year’s national and local elections.
“Citizens need issues and debates to be clarified, not simply amplified,” said Roby Alampay, Philippine coordinator for the International Media Support (IMS).
Alampay pointed out that the media has a critical role not just in providing accurate and essential information but also in challenging candidates’ claims. Journalists are tasked, he added, not just to present information but make them the subject of serious debates and encourage public discussion.
Stakes are high in the next year’s elections, with the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and daughter of President Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as the reported frontrunners in the top two government posts. Meanwhile, the country’s news industry is being plagued with attacks, including journalist killings, red-tagging, and cyber-attacks.
“With social media, there has been an increase in harassment of journalists and we can expect that there will be even more during this election campaign period,” said Barnaby Lo, president of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP)
Threats, social media, and harassment this upcoming election
Lo raised how the infamous Ampatuan massacre happened during the elections period, with their members then slated to join the coverage on the family of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s filing of his certificate of candidacy.
He also cited the recent attacks against the crew of ABS-CBN, who were mobbed by a group of Marcos-Duterte supporters.
“Election campaigns can be tense and turn violent. Journalists may find themselves trapped between contending groups, be roughed up in street protests, or directly targeted because of alleged bias,” said journalist Marchel Espina, editor of Digicast Negros and also from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod.
Espina urged fellow journalists to study election rules, electoral laws, and even political and campaign strategies so that the readers can understand it too.
“Election reporting is a major test of media ethics, if an opinion is free, facts are sacred,” Espina said.
New normal for the media in the upcoming elections
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Spokesperson James Jimenez meanwhile discussed the guidelines for the media coverage in the 2022 elections.
This time under the pandemic, the media is required to present a negative antigen test and pass a health screening test to cover the polling place. Minimum health standards, he added, shall be put in place.
The deadline of filing for the media accreditation for election coverage is on March 11, 2022.
This second part of the webinar series “Safely covering the 2022 national elections” was organized by Altermidya – People’s Alternative Media Network, in collaboration with online news Bulatlat and IMS. (AMU, JJE, RVO)