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New Covenant to Curb Media Corruption in Philippines Ahead of Midterm Elections

January 30, 2013

Ahead of May 2013 midterm elections in the Philippines, media organizations and political parties signed last week the “Covenant Against Media Corruption 2013,” an agreement that marks a significant step toward curbing rampant corruption in the media. Veteran journalist Marites Vitug of Rappler, called the covenant a “milestone in itself in contemporary media history.”

2010 Philippine Elections

Corruption in the media is particularly common during election season. The new covenant aims to curb corruption ahead of midterm elections in May.

The covenant commits the signatories – both media practitioners and political parties and candidates – to reject engaging in acts that contribute to corruption in the media, which has consistently marred Philippine elections. This is welcome news, as corruption has significantly damaged Philippine society by creating a culture of impunity whereby corrupt officials are not prosecuted and media practitioners turn a blind eye or do not expose corrupt practices. To date, the media, considered the gatekeepers of information, have not had to adhere to the highest ethical and journalistic standards and have typically assumed the roles of publicists and spin doctors for politicians and candidates. Information, which is supposedly accessible to the public, becomes a commodity and is sold to the highest bidder, particularly during election season. In the Philippines, there are well-known accounts of politicians and candidates keeping a “media payroll” especially during election seasons to secure favorable coverage from reporters. There have also been instances when radio broadcasters, particularly based in the provinces, sell airtime to politicians to augment their income.

Looking at the 2013 elections as an opportunity to change these practices and eventually help define the landscape of Philippine media and its ethical standards, Media Nation focused on the issue of corruption at its ninth annual gathering, organized by Pagbabago@Pilipinas, in November. For almost 10 years, Media Nation has served as an annual gathering and retreat for the media to discuss various issues that persistently hound their work and profession, from the challenges of political reportage, and violence against journalists, to the media’s role in nation-building. More significantly, the annual event provides an opportunity for them to reflect on their mission, revisit their role as gatekeeper of information, and renew their commitment to public service. The Asia Foundation has helped convene the event since the very first Media Nation 1 in 2004.

Of course, the issue of corruption is nothing new in the media: the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) published two editions of a book, News for Sale, in 1998 and 2004, tackling the pervasive and deep-rooted issue of corruption in the Philippine media taking place most particularly during election years and campaign periods. In response to reported incidence of media corruption, media outlets have tried to address the issue through strict guidelines and policies which are enforced through Codes of Conduct and Ethical Standards. For instance, major networks such as ABS CBN and GMA 7 provide a cap or limit to the amount or value of gifts that can be received by a reporter or journalist. But these codes of conduct and ethical standards are clearly not adequate in addressing media corruption.

The covenant signing was the first time that media practitioners and organizations have come together with people from opposite sides of the fence – candidates and political parties – to clean up their ranks to bring greater accountability in the Philippine media. And, steps are already being taken. On the heels of the signing, the Secretary General of one of the major parties issued a memo announcing their support, explaining the covenant, and encouraging the cooperation of all their local candidates.

Maribel Buenaobra is The Asia Foundation’s director of Programs and Jerryll Reyes is a program officer, both in the Philippines. They can be reached at mbuenaobra@asiafound.org and jreyes@asiafound.org, respectively. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.

View all posts by Jerryll Reyes

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One comment on this post:

  1. Good afternoon, I was really overwhelmed with the advocacy of the ASIA FOUNDATION as the leading anti-corruption organization. Kodus to your breath-taking and between life and death scenario in the system of the various governments of ASIA.

    Hope that such advocacy will be followed by our new generation of youths for corruption is really in the blood line of all the people of Asia. But this does not mean that such could not be stopped. It will be and it can be stopped if we will continually fight for it.

    Lastly I’m just shock upon seeing you featured picture for I think IT IS ME the one who raised a presidential ballot during one of our sessions with the comelec as to what is really a real ballot under the PICOS machine system and how to detect various marks that will invalidate any ballot.

    Even though I was shocked by such, I am just happy that you had chosen somewhat so innocent teacher and voter for the expected election bringing the real print-out of the people.

    I look forward in meeting some of your key persons for I am planning to host an important gathering of YOUTH-HEROES in our school.
    God bless us all!

    You may contact me in your convenient time in this mobile number of mine: 09326691695

    DIONALD BANCAIREN
    ICT Coordinator – NOHS Negros Oriental
    Karatedo Event Coordinator – NOrSports Province of Negros Oriental
    President – Do-Kyohan Karate Assn. Inc. – Negros Oriental Chapter
    Artist Guild and Costplay Assn. Coordinator – NOHS, Dumaguete City

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