Time for PH media to address corruption in ranks - NUJP

MANILA, Philippines – Regardless of the authenticity of the list of journalists who allegedly received cash payments from the pork barrel scam, the controversy should serve as a much-needed spark for the media to start cleaning its ranks. 

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) issued this statement on Monday, May 19, in reaction to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report containing a list of media personalities who allegedly received cash gifts from alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles as shown in financial records by principal whistleblower Benhur Luy. 

Although stressing that the details contained in the Inquirer report are mere allegations, the NUJP said the issue should go beyond proving or disproving the accusations.

It should in fact prompt the news media to review its processes and acknowledge that corruption is a problem in its own industry, NUJP said. 

"It is time that the Philippine media – and we speak not only of those who work in the news but everyone in the industry, including, yes, the managements and owners – recognize the problem and save ourselves and our people from ourselves," the statement said.  

The Inquirer report turned the spotlight towards the sector that has been reporting on the systematic siphoning off of public funds through the multi-billion pork barrel scam that has enraged the nation, triggered protest rallies and threatens to jail at least 3 prominent lawmakers.

At least 3 media personalities, including ABS-CBN broadcaster Korina Sanchez, GMA anchor Mike Enriquez and TV5 news and public affairs department head Luchi Cruz-Valdes, have denied involvement in the scam. (READ: Journalists vs Inquirer in pork barrel controversy)

Sanchez criticized the Inquirer for giving attention to an "unsubstantiated lie" while Cruz-Valdes slammed the country's biggest broadsheet for the "reckless inclusion" of her name in the Luy list, which, she said, has no legal basis. 

The same criticism has also been made about the credibility of the various versions of the Napoles list, which have been extensively covered by the media. 

'Long, hard look needed'

NUJP called on fellow members of the media to "take the bull by the horns" and "come together" to address the problem of corruption once and for all. 

"We need to take a long, hard look on where we are now – not just the problems of ethics and professionalism besetting us but, just as important, the economic and other interests that inform everything from how the industry is structured, the living and working conditions of its workers and, yes, the form in which the “truth” eventually reaches our audiences – and where we should go from here.

Media insiders estimate that 85% of mediamen are corrupt, according to a 2012 article by Rappler editor-at-large Marites Vitug

Amid the controversy, NUJP said the media must start taking serious steps to curb corruption before it is too late. 

"What we must fear is the day when the people finally and irrevocably decide that what the PDI reports is, indeed, what we are, when they judge us as having lost all credibility, unworthy of their trust, useful only to while their idle hours with brainless entertainment, a day, alas, that appears to be creeping ever closer to us, no thanks to the quest for profit over service," NUJP said. 

Read the full statement below: 

Let Us Take the Bull by the Horns

We have said it before and we will say it again, there can be no denying that corruption is as serious a problem within the media as it is within government and, let us face it, society in general.

Media, after all, do not exist in a vacuum.

Without passing judgment on anyone, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s report on media personalities who allegedly benefited from the pork barrel scam according to accounting records purportedly drawn up by whistleblower Benhur Luy comes as no surprise.

All these remain allegations, and those who raised these claims are duty bound to prove, just as those so accused have every right to prove their innocence.

Having said that, just as media should have no sacred cows, neither should the Fourth Estate be spared from scrutiny and criticism.

But it should not end there, whether these allegations are later proven true or false.

It is time that the Philippine media – and we speak not only of those who work in the news but everyone in the industry, including, yes, the managements and owners – recognize the problem and save ourselves and our people from ourselves. 

It is bad enough that this plague within our ranks has time and again been used not only to justify but even to trivialize the ultimate censorship – murder – that has claimed the lives of at least 161 of our colleagues since 1986, as President Aquino did when he attempted to explain his administration’s inaction on media killings.

It is bad enough when our audiences, the people we purport to serve and who depend on us for the information they need to make decisions about their personal and collective lives, feel no outrage when one of us is murdered.

What we must fear is the day when the people finally and irrevocably decide that what the PDI reports is, indeed, what we are, when they judge us as having lost all credibility, unworthy of their trust, useful only to while their idle hours with brainless entertainment, a day, alas, that appears to be creeping ever closer to us, no thanks to the quest for profit over service. 

But we are also confident that there remain more than enough among us who, despite extreme difficulties and danger, remain true to the tenets of the profession.

We call on all those who believe so to come together.

We need to take a long, hard look on where we are now – not just the problems of ethics and professionalism besetting us but, just as important, the economic and other interests that inform everything from how the industry is structured, the living and working conditions of its workers and, yes, the form in which the “truth” eventually reaches our audiences – and where we should go from here. 

There is no other way. 

Video camera close up image via Shutterstock. 

- Rappler.com