Introduction – Media as a pillar of democracy
Regarded as one of the pillars of democracy, media plays a vital role in determining the makeup of society and is capable of influencing the people’s perception on diverse issues. With its free and healthy exercise of freedom of the press or freedom of media, media has established itself as an indispensable instrument that strengthens the check and balance function of a democracy.
Such freedom of the press which involves proper gathering and dissemination of news & information is intertwined with the people’s right to be kept informed about the current political, social, economic and cultural life as well as the burning topics and important issues of the day. Hence, media’s appropriate use of press freedom is important for people to know the current news that satisfies their interest and in the process, evolve themselves into a society which is well informed about domestic and foreign affairs in governance.
To achieve this end, people need a clear and truthful account of events from responsible media practitioners who subscribe to the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability (as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public). This way, the people’s belief, emotion, attitude and opinion are correctly formulated and eventually translated into a course of action not for vested interest but for the common good or for national development.
The character of a responsible media
While media’s role in society is noble and is somewhat related to public service, it is in itself an industry that needs income or revenue to sustain the complexity of its operations. Media as a business industry implies a comprehensive collection of communication channels of different scales for it to become a rated competitor in the field of commercially sponsored activities of news reporting, entertainment, education and advertising/promotional messages (from where its profit is obtained). Therefore, it goes without saying that media may not be totally vulnerable to the possibility of lucrative enticements and machinations by sponsors (whether entities or personalities) with vested interest which they promote and protect.
As Tony Burman, ex-editor-In-chief of CBC News once said: “every news organization has only its credibility and reputation to rely on”, then people as audience must always be vigilant at all times and be adept in using their power of discernment to distinguish between propaganda and real news. Likewise, it is a must for the audience/listeners/viewers to be constantly aware of the character of a conscientious and responsible media, one that would always stick to the highest ethical standard of journalism and one that would say NO to malpractices in media industry as enumerated below:
NO to media bias – Media bias is the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term “media bias” implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article.
NO to sensationalism – Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are over-hyped to increase viewership or readership numbers. Sensationalism may include reporting about generally insignificant matters and events that don’t influence overall society and biased presentations of newsworthy topics in a sensationalist, trivial or tabloid manner.
NO to yellow journalism or the yellow press – Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines for increased readership or viewership. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension “Yellow Journalism” is used today as a pejorative term to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.
NO to trial by media – a popular phrase to describe the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person’s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt or innocence before, or after, a verdict in a court of law. During high publicity court cases, the media are often accused of provoking an atmosphere of public hysteria akin to a lynch mob which makes it nearly impossible to attain a fair trial. Moreover, the accused is unnecessarily subjected to intense public scrutiny the rest of his life regardless of the trial outcome. There are different reasons why the media attention is particularly intense surrounding a legal case: the first is that the crime itself is in some way sensational, by being horrific or involving children; the second is that it involves a celebrity either as victim or accused.
NO to religious discrimination – In a 1979 consultation on the issue, the United States commission on civil rights defined religious discrimination in relation to the civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as follows: Whereas religious civil liberties, such as the right to hold or not to hold a religious belief, are essential for Freedom of Religion (in the United States secured by the First Amendment), religious discrimination occurs when someone is denied ” the equal protection of the laws, equality of status under the law, equal treatment in the administration of justice, and equality of opportunity and access to employment, education, housing, public services and facilities, and public accommodation because of their exercise of their right to religious freedom.”
One of the leading voices in the U.S. on the subject of Journalistic Standards and Ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists put it this way: Public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.
The paradigm of irresponsible media practice
On June 18, 2009 the program Case Unclosed of a Philippine TV Network GMA7 hosted by a broadcaster named Arnold Clavio aired a controversial one-sided documentary feature of a self confessed rapist Daniel Veridiano aka “Puto”. If anything, the episode merely accomplished what may be considered as trial by publicity or trial by media of Bro. Eli Soriano, the spiritual leader of a religious group known as Ang Dating Daan (ADD). In that program, Bro. Eli was repeatedly accused by Puto of “rape”, notwithstanding the fact that same case had already been submitted for judicial determination during that time (sub-judice). Without the benefit of “cross examination” and Bro. Eli’s account of the other side of the story, Puto and Clavio teamed up to make “home runs” of unopposed prejudices, in the absence of Bro. Eli, on that show.
Evidently, this was one of those instances of media bias and sensationalism (in a rare practice of yellow journalism). Likewise, it betrayed a network’s insensitivity to issue marked with significant religious undertone. A no nonsense media practitioner who fully subscribes to ethical standard of journalism would likely shy away from such a discriminatory project. The TV network involve could have easily acquired information about the real background of things that matters most unless such information would deliberately be ignored for devious purposes. http://jakeastudillo.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/portrait-of-the-raped-man-for-whom-the-interpol-would-mobilize/
With utmost disregard to Bro. Eli’s rights under a democratic set-up, GMA Network through its Channel 11 replayed the same episode last August 03, 2011 and in the process, adds more insult to injury. GMA7, not once but twice, had promoted the interest of Bro. Eli’s foremost detractor, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), the church where Puto sought refuge and comfort immediately following his excommunication from ADD for various offenses. GMA7, in this particular case of trial by publicity should have taken into consideration the common knowledge about the deep seethed animosity between INC and ADD and the fact that the INC had been subjecting Bro. Eli to all forms of persecution and religious discrimination for many years. http://socyberty.com/politics/indecent-political-affair-and-injustices-to-remember/
Puto was an excommunicated former member of ADD who filed his case against Bro. Eli the moment he became a member of INC. Was this controversial episode involving INC and Bro Eli of ADD a stage managed media event to put the latter in bad light or just a mere coincidence it happened that way? GMA7, INC, Clavio and Puto surely know the answer. On the other hand, the right thinking audiences know that Bro. Eli need not suffer from this kind of media bias, sensationalism, yellow journalism, trial by media and religious discrimination.