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MANILA, Philippines – The recent decision of Malacañang to give bloggers access to President Rodrigo Duterte and allow them to cover presidential events within and outside the Palace has sparked an online debate, with veteran bloggers weighing in on the issue.
Noemi Lardizabal-Dado or Momblogger, one of the co-founders of Blog Watch, said giving bloggers access to the President was nothing new. The Aquino administration welcomed bloggers in the beginning of its term.
She suggested the following criteria to be used in accrediting Palace bloggers:
- They must have a blog site that writes on politics, social issues or advocacy
- They must have an About Us page that offers description of the blog
- The blog must be at least one year old with archives of at least 52 articles.
- There must be a contact page where the editor or bloggers are identified and where readers can contact the blogger
- Submission of duplicate copy of an ID during the application
- A disclosure page that lists the blogger’s political affiliation, sources of funding, and feedback mechanism for readers to hold the blogger accountable.
Blog Watch was formed in 2009 by a group of bloggers to conduct a voters education campaign. They have since become an advocacy group on a number of social issues.
Jane Uymatiao, a co-founder of Blog Watch, clarified that bloggers like her are not interested in covering the President’s activities daily. They prefer event-based accreditation instead.
Why all the fuss over bloggers? I personally do not even want to cover the Palace beat on a daily basis. Certain key events, yes.— Jane U. (@citizenjaneph) February 9, 2017
“I did not find the need to cover everything about the President. It was more important that the government listen to citizens and open avenues to engage and get feedback. If they accepted our request to be accredited, then it is all good,” also wrote Lardizabal-Dado in her column.
Press Secretary Martin Andanar agreed that a set of criteria is needed to determine which bloggers to involve in Palace coverage, but he said it is a challenge to come up with one that’s mutually accepted by accredited journalists and bloggers.
Under the current rules, journalists who are assigned to report from Malacañang must belong to a news agency and get accreditation from the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC).
Officers of the MPC have objected to media accreditation for bloggers on the grounds that bloggers lack accountability.
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility board member Vergel Santos argues that bloggers are not subject to the “rules of practice and ethics and tradition” that bind professional journalists. Santos cautions that accrediting bloggers will blur the line “between legitimate journalism and pseudo journalism.”
Pro or anti
Then there is the question of fairness by giving presidential access to bloggers who are openly supportive of President Duterte and denying those who are critical of the President and his policies.
But Andanar said the criteria apply to all bloggers, whether they are pro- or anti- administration.
“If you’re a blogger for the opposition or if you’re a plain blogger, neutral, or a blogger for Duterte, if you’re a blogger for kalaban (the enemy) then you’re free, we’ll look at your application,” he said.
Tonyo Cruz, a blogger and a columnist for the Manila Bulletin said Andanar, as press secretary, cannot play favorites. “Andanar is not doing bloggers any favor with his displays of preference and discrimination in favor of bloggers favoring his principal,” said Cruz referring to Andanar’s personal live podcast where he had two prominent pro-Duterte bloggers as guests.
“Whether a media practitioner is a journalist or blogger, Andanar cannot pick only those who favor his principal,” Cruz added. Rappler.com