Media and journalism issues

Public support needed for independent news media in PH

Camille Elemia
Public support needed for independent news media in PH

MEDIA INDEPENDENCE. In a webinar, media experts and journalists discuss why journalism matters today and how it can cope with the challenges.

Rappler video screenshot

'Part of being independent is to survive, to be able to get support from the community, to ensure that it will endure despite the attacks,' UP journalism associate professor Ma. Diosa Labiste says

Media experts said public support is needed to allow news organizations to develop an independent news agenda and pursue critical journalism.

This was discussed on Friday, May 28, during the “Why journalism matters” webinar hosted by MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm.

University of the Philippine associate professor for journalism Ma. Diosa Labiste said Filipinos and members of the media themselves should support the independence of news groups and journalists. 

Labiste cited how some journalists fall into the trap of access reporting, where some reporters deem it “unthinkable” to be critical of their sources for fear of losing access. (READ: Rappler asks Supreme Court to end Duterte coverage ban)

“I think what we should support is the independence of media and journalists. Some reporters treat access journalism as essential to news reporting, and it is unthinkable for them to be critical of their stories because access might be denied…. But denial of access allowed other independent news agencies to develop more independent news agenda and shift to a more critical journalism. In other words, they stand outside journalism, and because of this they were able to give or do good journalism,” she said.

Since February 2018, Rappler journalists have been banned from covering Malacañang and other events to be attended by President Rodrigo Duterte. Other journalists, especially from alternative media organizations, have been denied access and harassed for being perceived enemies of the government.

The Philippines slipped two more places, now ranking 138th out of 180 nations, in the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index for 2021 – the fourth consecutive year that the country dropped in the index.

Public’s financial support

Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza, Rappler’s head of digital strategy, said one key factor to media independence is its source of revenue. 

Mendoza and Labiste said this is where the public comes in.

“It’s very important that there’s a source of revenue that is supporting that. It’s really important for the public to see that they have a stake in this,” Mendoza said.

“We have to support independent small news organizations that bring us information that are not the usual things, or that are not found in big news organizations. Part of being independent is to survive, to be able to get support from the community, to ensure that it will endure despite the attacks,” Labiste said.

If possible, Labiste said the concept of community pantry could also be tested in the media.

“While many benefit from it, many others should be supporting independent media in order for it to thrive and flourish,” she said.

For his part, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and media professor John Nery said journalists should rethink the old ways of doing journalism. 

He suggested “reinforcing the role of journalists” as an institution of democracy, and urged journalists “to think beyond stories.”

The discussion was a special session of MovePH’s webinar series promoting media and information literacy and fact-checking. 

This was also part of the lineup of activities for the entire month of May to commemorate the importance of press freedom led by Rappler+, Rappler’s membership program. (READ: Join Rappler+ and help #DefendPressFreedom) – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com