Accreditation Exams for Journalists?-A A +A
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
A PERUSAL of Senator Jinggoy Estrada's proposed Magna Carta for Journalists will show that the measure does not intend to prohibit journalists from practicing their profession in case they will not be able to hurdle the accreditation examinations. Okay, that’s fine. But the beef is that the accreditation itself comes as a means of saying that one has the better right to be a journalist than the other. Take note that under the bill, an Accreditation Identification Card will be issued to reporters who passed the test and the said ID shall be worn at all times when covering the beat or gathering news.
This will breed uneasiness or possible divide between the accredited and the non-accredited journalists when they are on field. I could just imagine, for instance, how Jonathan LLanes of Peoples Television, in case he failed the exams, would make faces towards Armenio Supang of DZMM when the latter would proudly brandish his accreditation ID while jostling to interview the voluptuous Ms. Baguio.
I am also curious on what Senate Bill 380 referred to as benefits under labor law accredited journalists can receive other than what the law now gives to all journalists when there is no such animal as accreditation. Unless there’s a new rule that I missed, I could not recall one which says that newsmen who will be accredited will receive higher compensation. If that is the intent of the law, my colleagues in the profession will surely raise arms and declare that is class legislation.
Maybe we could explore the plus points of an accreditation for journalists, like producing a directory for journalists and providing trainings for professional growth which the supposed Phil. Council for Journalists is tasked to do. But make the accreditation optional and in no way should there be an examination. Otherwise, the move will border on regulation and for sure, the members of the third estate will protest.
If the purpose of the bill is to recognize legitimate journalists, undergoing an exam is not the remedy. Checking the outfit and press ID of a reporter can help. If the purpose of the bill is to weed out the bogus journalists, the press clubs, media organizations and the news sources themselves can and must police their own ranks. If the purpose of the bill is to eliminate “hao-siao” reporters, then ban them from the premises through a policy to be implemented by the agency to be covered, like what the Bureau of Customs did.
I am also curious on the type of the examination. Will they be multiple choice questions, essay, fill in the blanks, true or false, matching type or vocabulary? And what’s the focus? Will it be grammar, skills in reportage, or ethics?
The bill though is not entirely evil. Its provisions on the protocol for the service of warrants of arrest for journalists are laudable. The bill also distinguishes correspondents from reporters. Good for reporters, they are considered as regular employees. But for correspondents, they are paid per story or per column inch. I was paid per column inch in my 15 years with the Inquirer. Maybe its high the pay for correspondents will be increased. Why not P1000 per story or P300 per column inch? But passing an accreditation examination should not be a condition for an increase in pay.
My apologies to Imelda Abano, our Philippine Network for Environment Journalists (PNEJ) president. She tasked me to write a statement for PNEJ on Sen. Jinggoy’s bill and I failed to deliver. I hope this piece will suffice. Better late than never.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 29, 2013.