FOR development workers, an innovation ceases to become a well-intentioned intervention when the community accepts and sustains the initiatives.

By this definition, the Cebu Press Freedom Week (CPFW) succeeds as a community-based effort to nurture a culture of professionalism and self-regulation among communicators.

Now on its 22nd year of commemoration, the CPFW, initiated by Cebu journalists to counter press censorship and media corruption, has been embraced and continued by Cebu civil society, specifically by teachers and students aspiring to be future communicators.

With more citizens participating as communicators through the access of technology and digital literacy, the recently concluded CPFW harnesses the power of media literacy to inculcate the highest media standards and ethics to promote informed discourse and participatory governance.

Passing the torch

Last Sept. 23, students of the University of the Visayas, the Cebu Normal University, the Cebu Technological University, and the forum hosts, University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu listened to broadcasters Jun Tagalog, Annie Fe Perez and Cecille Quibod-Castro discuss “Press Freedom in the Modern Era: How Far Have We Gone?” at the UP Cebu Arts and Sciences Hall.

The forum was organized by the Broadcasting Communication class of Mass Comm. faculty member Jeneth Borlasa. UP Cebu sophomore Stacey Marie Baladya said that the CPFW “not just inspired but motivated” her fellow students to address the realities of the industry they aspired to join.

“Press freedom has gone a long way from being held in the neck. It now enjoys so much freedom today that it is sometimes abused,” said Ms. Baladya.

A day before, at the Oblation Square of the UP Cebu campus, the Cebu Alliance of Mass Communication Students (CAMS) and the Communicators of UP held an Integrity Rally.

Representing Communication students of 10 Cebu-based universities, the CAMS led by Mark Roland Romas of the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) renewed their support for the “No Envelopes Please” campaign spearheaded by the CAMS, which reminds aspiring journalists not to accept monetary or material “gifts” from sources that compromise their integrity and credibility.

Joining the students were professors Nestor Ramirez of USJ-R and Ma. Theresa Q. Tabada of UP Cebu, who cited that media self-regulation was tackled in the 2010 documentary, “Corruption in Media: the Cebu Setting,” produced by the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), one of the media advocacy groups organizing the CPFW.

Knowledge and counter-power

Educating citizens to become literate about media and the public’s power to act as watchdogs of media and defenders of press freedom was the subject of professor Tabada’s paper, recognized as the best research in the professional category during the Sept. 23 First Journalism and Communication Research Congress organized by the Cebu Association of Communication Educators (CACE) and the Embassy of Canada.

The paper studied the CCPC’s collaborations with the public and its challenges to reach out to the grassroots, digital journalists, and Netizens through media literacy. The importance of the digital public sphere was also highlighted by USJ-R student researchers’ analysis of political memes, which was twice recognized as the best students’ research and presentation in the same congress. Samuel Carlve Saberon, Micah Sophia Marcellanos, and Anniza Marilao proposed that information and satire boost the effectiveness of memes as political commentaries.

Yet, low-technology bulletin boards also offer considerable opportunities in campuses for information and social engagement on current issues. This was highlighted in the best faculty presentation by professor Joseleanor M. Magno of the University of San Carlos on the linguistic landscape of Cebu City higher education institutions (HEIs).

Cace president professor Ramirez noted that the first research congress continued the Cebu HEIs’ advocacy to “produce skillful and ethical media workers”. The generation of new knowledge through research was not just a mission shared by the media and the academe, observed Eileen G. Mangubat in her keynote talk on communication as a tool in nation-building.

Whether probing the directions of eco-tourism initiatives or presidential pronouncements, the academe and the rest of civil society share the stake of consciously using communication to examine practice, encourage discussion, and bring about genuine change, said the multi-awarded journalist and UP Cebu senior lecturer.