Pride and Prejudice: Role of Media -- Part 2

Article excerpt

Byline: Florangel Rosario Braid

WHY bother examining the issue of prejudice towards cultural communities when there are so many pressing national problems? This question should be directed at leadership which by now should have recognized that if we do not prioritize conflict in Mindanao in the national agenda, we may never have the peace that had eluded us these past decades.

As part of the study rationale, we have integrated concerns raised in the recent roundtable discussion such as: What are the economic and social costs of this conflict? How has this conflict contributed to the stunted growth of Mindanao? Why do we continue to remain a divided nation?

Amina Rasul, lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy thinks the government is ignorant about the existence of prejudice, and therefore needs to be further informed - especially about the conduct of the peace process and needed action such as dismantling the government apparatus that had contributed to the escalation of violence in the South. On the matter of self-regulation by the media, she suggests that we go beyond what is contained in the present media codes of ethics and examine whether there is indeed adequate political will to enforce the Code.

To date, there are two "national" media codes - the Philippine Journalist's Code of Ethics and the Philippine Broadcast Code of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). A provision in the Journalist Code states: "I shall not, in any manner, ridicule, cast aspersions on, or degrade any person by reason of sex, creed, religious belief, and political conviction, cultural and ethnic origin." Three provisions in the KBP Code are relevant: (1) "News should not refer to a person's race, religion, color, ethnicity, gender, or physical and mental disability, unless this is relevant to the news story;" (2) "Stations shall respect the mores, culture, traditions, and characteristics of people. Maliciously ridiculing or denigrating culture, customs and traditions is not allowed;" and (3) "Broadcasters shall acquaint themselves with the culture, mores, traditions, needs and other characteristics of the locality and its people to best serve the community." But, as most of us know, much is to be desired in terms of enforcement.

Too, the media has this "sabung" mentality and likes to pit protagonists against each other. As Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina says, media tends to play on conflict and less on the positive social aspects of life in the community. This was the same observation during the 1996 GRP-MNLF peace agreement forged between former President Fidel V. Ramos and the then head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process, Manuel Yan on behalf of the government and the then ARMM governor, Nur Misuari. Nonetheless, as I pointed out in an earlier critique, its success was due to the "communication processes: Employed which are primarily interpersonal and creative use of existing administrative channels - continuing dialogue, use of third party mediators and informal venues, etc. …