Editorial: Test of media regulation

Editorial: Test of media regulation
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

Can erring members of media be held accountable?

The case involving two male broadcasters interviewing on-air a child who was raped demands vigilance.

Last March 13, Brigada News FM Cebu anchors, lawyer Juril Patiño and Dennes Tabar, subjected a four-year-old survivor of domestic violence to questions that made the girl recount in detail how she was repeatedly raped by a male relative.

Broadcast on radio and uploaded on social media, the seven-minute video did not only draw the voyeuristic and dissolute.

Many netizens went online immediately and in the following days to denounce the broadcasters for violating the rights of the child-survivor, possibly adding to her trauma and jeopardizing the minor’s recovery and chance to heal and move on.

One of the first and unrelenting in calling out the broadcasters is journalist Max Limpag, who posted on March 14 in his blog “Leon Kilat: The Tech Experiments” that he hopes that the “widespread revulsion online… will spark reforms and discourage sensationalized reporting or… gutter journalism.”

Limpag’s blog post received 132 shares, as of the writing of this editorial. Limpag is co-founder of InnoPub Media and MyCebu.ph.

The first group of media professionals to “condemn” the professional ethics and standards of Patiño and Tabar was the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists.

In a March 14 statement, the official but unsigned statement of a group that counts more than a hundred “legitimate reporters, photographers and cameramen” covering 12 news beats in Cebu reiterates social responsibility: “It is (media professionals’) responsibility to ensure that our work does not harm or further traumatize victims of crimes.”

Beyond condemnation of Patiño and Tabar, the call for accountability of the involved broadcasters and the radio station was reiterated by other citizens and media groups, such as the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Cebu, Cebu Citizens-Press Council, and STET Cebu Women in Media.

Amplifying the public condemnation of the acts of commission and omission by Patiño, Tabar, and the Brigada News FM Cebu station were the official statements released by the Integrated Bart of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter and the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB).

In the signed CLB statement, deputy executive director Noemi Truya-Abarientos considers “the interview… (as) an act of abuse,” reported SunStar Cebu’s Arkeen M. Larisma on March 16.

What’s needed now is proof that there is teeth behind media self-regulation in correcting media lapses.

“We urge an investigation and corrective action for apparent violations of the Child Protection Act (Republic Act 7610), ethical standards of the KBP, and the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability for lawyers,” concluded nine journalist-members of STET in their signed statement on March 16.

The media industry’s resolution of this case involving Brigada News FM Cebu and its anchors and management is needed to prove that self-regulation is effective to discipline erring journalists and hold every media worker committed to the proper ethics and highest standards of professionalism.

Gauging on the apparent lack of contrition and public atonement of Patiño and Tabar over their treatment of the minor during the March 13 interview, aired and uploaded on social media, and the sympathy expressed by their listeners and supporters, it is not just the media but civil society that is tested by this incident.

As Limpag noted in his March 14 blog post, it is the “lure of social media engagement” that “continue(s) to fuel this gutter journalism.”

In an age when technology transforms every media consumer into a mass self-communicator, actively liking, sharing, and circulating all forms of media content, beyond the reach of any institution except for one’s personal sense of right and wrong and the rule of Law, how can we each be responsible and accountable in communicating?


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