Media Discuss Strategies for Future Election Coverage

SEPT 6TH 2007

Media practitioners gathered on September 4 to assess the way they covered the 2007 elections, and talk about how they could do better in future exercises.

The forum, dubbed “Media as Catalyst for Electoral Reforms,” was held at the Pius XII Catholic Center. It was organized by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Communication Foundation for Asia (CFA).

In her opening remarks, PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa observed that in the recent mid-term elections, one of the commendable developments that emerged was the vigilance of media. There was noticeable “volunteerism by media,” she said, “to take on an activist role in uncovering election anomalies for public scrutiny.”

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility presented a summary of a CMFR study about media coverage of the electoral exercise. Although limited to a survey of the senatorial and party-list campaigns, the numbers Teodoro gave showed much improved reporting in 2007 vs. 2004 in terms of relevance and balance.

Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus spoke about the transformative power of mass media in Philippine elections. “According to the social teachings of the Church, [social] participation [including voting] is a duty that must be fulfilled responsibly with the common good in view,” the bishop noted. “The Church believes that information and education are mandatory for citizens to make a veritable contribution in terms of participation in societal life. Mass media are singled out [by the Church] as potent tools that will equip citizens for true participation.”

Reactions were made by a panel consisting of Maria Ressa of ABS-CBN, Butch Canoy of the KBP, Inday Espina-Varona of the National Union of Journalists, and Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

The end product of the forum was a formal declaration, in which the participants committed themselves to promoting electoral reforms. Among other things, they also affirmed their support of efforts aimed at voters’ education.

Contributing to the drafting of the declaration were Fr. Francis Lucas of the Catholic Media Network, Robert Barreiro of ABC-5, Sis. Pinky Barrientos of the CBCP Media Office, Cheche Lazaro of Probe Team Productions, and former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod.