‘Prioritize child’s interest in media coverage’


THE Department of Social Welfare and Development Central Visayas (DSWD 7) has expressed grave concerns over the recent conduct of two Cebu-based radio anchormen who conducted what was described as an “inappropriate and insensitive” interview with a four-year-old girl, a victim of sexual abuse.

Stet, a group of women journalists in Cebu, also criticized the interview, saying it included parts deemed “unnecessary for the report.” They asserted that the interview violated the rights of the victim, who is a minor, rather than protecting them.

The incident, which sparked outrage and condemnation from various sectors, highlighted the need for media practitioners to exercise utmost sensitivity and professionalism when reporting on cases involving children.

Last Wednesday, March 13, 2024, Juril Patiño, a lawyer and Dennes Tabar, the anchors of Brigada News FM Cebu, conducted a live on-air interview. During the interview, the victim was encouraged to recount the details of the abuse. The interview was facilitated inside a police station by Jonalyn Jumabis, one of the station’s field reporters.

In a press statement released on Saturday, March 16, DSWD 7, the primary agency tasked with safeguarding children’s rights in the region, reiterated the importance of adhering to ethical guidelines in media reporting, particularly concerning minors.

They emphasized that the well-being and dignity of the child victims should always be the top priority. The agency serves as chair of the Regional Council for the Welfare of Children.

DSWD 7 said that in all forms of media coverage, the best interests of the child must be prioritized. Additionally, the agency stressed the importance of respecting the dignity of the child and facilitating their access to the media when appropriate.

They acknowledged the media’s role in promoting child rights and preventing delinquency but sought a balanced, sensitive approach when covering topics involving children.

DSWD 7 reiterated the necessity of having a psychologist or social worker present during interviews with children, particularly in sensitive cases. The comfort level of the child during questioning and the duration of the interview should be carefully considered to mitigate any potential harm.

In cases of abuse and exploitation, DSWD 7 urged media practitioners to focus on discussing broader issues rather than delving into the personal circumstances of the victims.

Stet also criticized the broadcasters for sensationalizing the incident and prolonging the child’s suffering.

They highlighted the unnecessary inclusion of graphic detail in the report, emphasizing the further trauma inflicted upon the child, whose rights were violated rather than protected.

In a press statement on Saturday, they added that harm to the child cannot be justified by a misguided interest in increasing media ratings and viewership.

The group held Brigada News FM’s station manager, anchor and reporter responsible for the insensitive conduct, labeling it as a “sad example of exploitation.”

Stet called for an investigation and corrective measures for potential violations of the Child Protection Act (Republic Act 7610), ethical standards of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), and the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability for lawyers.

The group urged the upper management of Brigada News FM, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the KBP to take immediate action.

Both the IBP Cebu City Chapter and KBP Cebu Chapter already released statements on the matter last Friday, March 15, saying they will deal with the incident accordingly.

Anchors’ side

Patiño and Tabar, the anchors in question, said they would accept any sanctions or the results of any investigation on the matter, including the possible disbarment of Patiño.

The anchors addressed the issue on their radio program “Tira Brigada” on Saturday, with somber music playing in the background.

They played South Korean pianist Yiruma’s “Kiss The Rain” while expressing their disappointment over the criticism they received from the interview and explaining why it happened.

“We take the responsibility [for] whatever it takes for us, no problem for me,” Patiño said.

However, Tabar said that if asked whether he regretted being involved in the incident, he would say, “No.” He added that they were simply performing their duties as radiomen.

Tabar also criticized the critics who condemned them on the matter, while Patiño added that he did not mind the backlash and criticism coming from the public and fellow media workers in Cebu. However, he said he became emotional regarding the handling of the issue.

“While driving, my tears fell, and asked God, ‘Lord, why? What did we do?’ That is why sometimes I question him,” he said.

He said the detailed narration of the interview was necessary to emphasize the gravity of the suspect’s sin to the victim, adding that the interview had consent from the victim’s mother. (KJF)


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