Quickie: on a suppressed media
This is just a quick note, actually a long delayed reaction to a discussion at the National Union of Journalists’ training on election reporting last month.
First, I truly learned a lot from that training. Thanks to NUJP and the rest of the organizers.
The question was on whether it is appropriate to wear a shirt with strong political statements during coverage. (I was wearing one that day.)
I drew a mix of reactions from the participants when I said it is a big NO, and I qualified “especially during out of town coverage or coverage in a seemingly volatile situation.”
I argued that it is important to assert our rights and the right of the people to information , but it is of extreme importance that we think of our safety first and the safety of the information we were carrying.
One of the reactions it drew was from one of my friends at the NUJP who said it is important to assert our freedom as journalists –and the mere fear of wearing the shirt in that situation shows the real situation of the supposed freedom of the press in the Philippines.
To which, I truly agreed. Who says the press is free or it has been given the right environment for it to remain free? It has to struggle for its freedom and it has done so at a high price what with many journalists killed and imprisoned.
That is why to think of safety, at least from my point of view is NON-NEGOTIABLE.
As far as what I learned from the International News Safety Institute for journalists – to assert for one’s safety doesn’t mean you are compromising your safety. It is only a matter of carefully preparing and engaging in a coverage so that you attain your news agenda without ending or risking your life unnecessarily.
I will continue to wear that Freedom shirt (which MindaNews prints for a reasonable cost) anytime I want to, but I will choose the situation and I won’t put my life in a fix. Maybe it is true that there is “no story worth dying for”.
And by the way just to put it straight, I am a human being first before a journalist, and a journalist I remain first before my being an activist.