The political climate in the Philippines, with respect to the media, has been dismal over the last several years.
During the past administration, widespread red-tagging and attacks of journalists have sown fear and discontent in the minds of journalists and people alike, citing the violation of their right to press freedom.
With a shared recognition of the universally accepted principle that the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press are the bedrock of a healthy democracy, officials of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), American Bar Association-Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI), USAID, and Internews met on June 30, 2022 to discuss protecting and defending press freedom while ensuring the accountability of journalists.
It is proposed that through local media councils, these objectives will be met.
For instance, media councils aid in defending freedom of press by making statements about rights violations or defend or represent journalists who are subject and may be subject to these attacks.
Whereas, in ensuring accountability of journalists, media councils may act as mediators and can provide another avenue for alternative modes of dispute resolution, thereby assisting in the continuing effort to unclog court dockets.
For the same reason, this can also be another way to inform the people about the current issues just as they are happening.
On this note, the IBP supports a Change Initiative to strengthen local media councils. This will be done by collaborating with the Philippine Press Institute in three pilot areas: Batangas, Iloilo, and Davao.
Pursuant to this, the IBP has invited the ABA-ROLI and Internews to work together to implement the Change Initiative.
In response and in relation to the Change Initiative proposed by the IBP, Internews shared its Initiative for Media Freedom (IMF). Its implementation is contemplated in achieving three objectives, namely:
- Protection of press freedom;
- Fight against disinformation; and
- Press self-regulation
To implement the IMF, Internews seeks to work with the IBP through lawfare projects and enforcing media regulation through local media councils.
In this context, lawfare is defined as using the law against journalists and lawyers.
In brief, the IBP is supporting the Change Initiative to strengthen local media councils and is thankful to the ABA-ROLI and Internews for meeting with IBP and manifesting its interest for the continued effort to protect press freedom, the freedom of expression and media accountability.