business / education / Journalism / Media / Social Media

Freedom of Information: A Privilege and Responsibility

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) co-founder and current Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Shiela Coronel told her audience: “twenty-five years ago, the term ‘investigative reporting’ was little-known in Asia. Today, journalists throughout Asia are using freedom-of-information laws, data analysis, social media, collaborative tools and the latest in digital technology. They are writing about corruption, human slavery, dirty money and environmental problems.”3

Throughout this time, we’ve been told that Asians value consensus over exposure. They’re wrong: Speaking truth to power is an Asian value”.3

It helps if the investigative reporter is a damned good writer and storyteller – suspenseful but not sensationalistic, and with a colorful style especially with a blockbuster whodunit. Coronel said that once journalists and citizens have had a taste of independence and freedom, it is hard to go back to the dark ages. She pointed out the immense changes in Asia in the past 20 years, among them toppled dictatorships and opening markets.3

In the aftermath of Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), Facebook became an important alternative form of communication and future emergency preparedness plans should include it. Posting a status update on Facebook was the quickest way to communicate.1

Faced with limited access, Facebook proved useful to many residents to update their relatives about their plight as we all as to ask for help. What happened during Yolanda demonstrated how media users quickly learn to adopt technologies to suit their peculiar needs during a communication network paralysis. Educating residents about the value of social media channels will make social media use during disasters more efficient.1

News exchange in Facebook is a classic example of democratization of information. Reports said that Facebook has changed the way users consume news such that searching has become highly personal and has cleared away third-party editorial judgment.2

As a social media, it makes us both the source and reciever of information. Lastly, it is the speed by which information is brought to our knowledge that gives social media an edge over other news media.2

It is the politics of ‘liking’ a particular Facebook post that somehow develops a culture of conformity, which is reinforced by cyberbullying. A lot of people have been shamed without being given the proper forum to explain themselves.2 I realized that the internet can be both a gold mine and a minefield”, says Coronel 3

Thus, the manner by which we express our disagreements over an issue paints a picture of our civility, and most importantly of how we accord respect to our neighbor. In a society with high-level of political tolerance, people do not impose their beliefs on others but seek to raise the quality of dialogue and peaceably live amid their differences. Hence, it is high-time to check not just our Facebook status but also out degree of respect toward each other.2

For decades, but especially since the EDSA ‘People Power Revolution’ restored the press freedom in the country. The Philippines has prided itself in having one of the freest, if not THE freest press in the region.4

Not everyone, ofcourse, welcomed the wild and wooly media environment that emerged with the Marcoses’ departure. As former president Fidel Ramos once declared, whenever he read the day’s papers, “some make me want to commit suicide, while others make me want to commit homicide”.4 And as he mentioned in his latest State of the Nation Address, P-Noy felt aggrieved by the almost daily slings and arrows of criticisms, leading him to wonder why he ever chose the path of public service. 4

The answer should be clear to him – and to us as well. P-Noy chose the difficult path of public service and leadership not just because of his own personal history but because he believes in democracy, as he declares again and again.4

For us Filipinos, the stalled Freedom-of-Information bill is still deterrent to good investigative reporting.3 And democracy relies in large part on freedom of the press, in freedom not just of journalists but also of the people to access all the information they deserve, the better to make the right decisions and choices when they need to.4

Teach the journalists in question some manners. Chide them for their boorishness.4 But passing the freedom-of-information bill is not only fundamental to what we proudly call a ‘free’ press but to a democratic nation as well.

References:

1 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, ‘Disaster Preparedness Plan Must Include Social Media’. November 10, 2014. Edson Tandoc.
2 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, ‘Social Media Users Challenged: Be Respectful’. November 10, 2014. Esmeralda Abarabar.
3 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Human Face. ‘Uncovering Asia Through Investigative Journalism’. Ma. Ceres P. Doyo.
4 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, At Large. ‘Journalists Behaving Badly’. Rina Jimenez-David.

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