Philippines journalists and various media organizations recently signed a pledge “to provide accurate, reliable and essential information that will empower voters and encourage public discussion and debate” in the lead-up to the nation’s May 2022 national elections. Writes Perfecto Caparas
“Every election is a reckoning for democracy,” read the document “Election 2022 Pledge for Journalists and Media Organizations,” which the journalists have signed. The Pledge points out their duties and responsibilities as “journalists reporting on another critical moment for our country”.
The upcoming campaign for the presidential elections will likely be dominated by at least three major issues plaguing the country – Chinese incursions into Philippine territorial seas and exclusive economic zone; the government’s ineptitude in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the unrelenting targeted killings of civilians carried out under President Duterte’s bloody “drug war”.
The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is requesting the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I to authorize a preliminary investigation of the situation in the Philippines. The OTP estimates that 12,000 to 30,000 civilians were killed during President Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs”.
As outlined in the Pledge, the journalists vowed to:
Put voters and the integrity of the electoral process at the center of our reporting.
- Focus on issues not just on personalities.
- Examine the track record and qualifications of candidates and political parties vying for public office and hold them accountable for the veracity and honesty of their every statement and promise.
- Cover as responsible and accountable the institutions mandated to ensure an even, orderly, and credible electoral playing field.
- Stand in solidarity with each other when any journalist or news organization is harassed by state agents, political parties, candidates, or private groups for their evidence-based journalism.
• Be accountable to the public. We will hold each other to higher standards of impartiality, credibility, and integrity.
“Election integrity is not just about credible counting of votes, but about clean, level, legal, transparent, and accountable campaigning,” the Pledge stated.
As laid down in the Pledge, the journalists also committed themselves to:
Challenge and correct statements and claims that have no basis in fact.
- Avoid highlighting or amplifying falsehoods, hate speech and incitements to violence.
- Report on the partisan activities of government officials, including those working for national and local agencies, the courts, law enforcement and the armed services.
- Monitor the independence of the Commission on Elections, the courts, the military, the police, teachers and all other individuals and entities involved in the conduct of the election.
- Highlight the efforts of the public and private sectors to uphold the honesty and integrity of elections.
- Monitor vote-buying, campaign spending and the use of public funds to win elections.
- Contextualize reporting on surveys and the winnability of candidates. We will not report on surveys without verifying the source of the polling data, the track record of the companies conducting the polls, the methodologies used, and the questions asked.
- Focus on voter education, citizen participation and empowerment.
- Organize and report on town halls and debates and encourage candidates and citizens to take part in them.
- Uphold codes of ethics and professional conduct and disclose potential conflicts of interest.
- Make a clear distinction between reportage and opinion.
- Promote safety, public health and security protocols for and among journalists and be mindful of the impact of our work on the safety and well-being of the people and communities we interact with in the course of our reporting.
- Share best practices, knowledge, and experience, and raise our individual and collective capacities and competencies in covering elections – as well as the politics, issues, policies, leaders, and people beyond the elections.
Perfecto Caparas writes a column for Pinoy Publiko. He served as a journalist of Ang Pahayagang Malaya, The Manila Times, The Philippine Post, Pinoy Gazette, UCANews and ISYU Newsmagazine. He is a licensed attorney and lifetime member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
This article is published under content exchange arrangement between Blitz and Pressenza International Media.
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