Thursday, September 8, 2016

Time to regulate the media as a profession!

This is not about censorship, but making the media accountable for what they do.

Lawyers, doctors, engineers, chemists, psychologists and even foresters are examples of professions.  There is an academic degree requirement. And there is a board exam that you need to pass, and there is a code of ethical conduct for which you are held accountable, and if you transgress, you get removed from the profession and denied the chance to practice it ever.

It is about time to make journalism a regulated profession, and have its own board exam, even as it requires having an academic degree  in the appropriate field of communication and journalism, and required units in political science, economics, and other disciplines that would be relevant to its practice.

Journalists should also be required to divest themselves from any pecuniary interest in any public or financial activity, and they should be asked to inhibit in reporting on news for which they or their relatives may have some involvement.  Finally, they should be strictly non-partisan, and should be barred from posting any political opinion in social media or any other platform.

This would only of course apply to those who are tasked to report the news, such as reporters and anchors.  Public affairs commentators and analysts would not be covered, considering that what they do is basically to express opinions, as partisans, with their biases.  And there is always the rules on libel to which they can be held civilly-liable (although I go for its decriminalization).

Even if there is already a Code of Ethics for the media, this is just similar to the Code of Ethics for Scientists in doing research.  They serve as internal standards but are weak legally.

Professional journalists should no longer be allowed to become commentators and opinion-writers.  If you want to do the latter, then you cease to become a journalist, but become a thought-leader, or an opinion-maker.

There should be no crossing-over.  A TV anchor should no longer be allowed to have a regular column, although a newspaper editor can still be allowed to become an opinion-maker subject to certain constraints.

The noise and misrepresentation that is created by media, from taking out of context of Sec. Tugade's comment about traffic being a state out mind, to grossly misrepresenting the putang ina of the President as a direct curse at President Obama, are just tips of the iceberg.  You have journalists who even during the delivery of the news make editorial comments.  You have reporters who post comments for or against a politician in their face-book accounts.

This, while lawyers, doctors, psychologists and engineers are held strictly to comply with their profession's codes of conduct, and could be sued for malpractice.  Lawyers could be disbarred.  The license of Doctors could be suspended or revoked.

Driving in this country is a licensed endeavor that when you make a moving violation, you get a ticket, or when you commit a serious traffic infraction, that your license is revoked and you are banned from driving for life.  The reason?  Because you are a threat to public safety.

An irresponsible journalist is a threat to the Republic.

A journalist who reports lies, or inaccuracies, or is blatantly partisan, is not propagating information that should be protected, for it is done contradictory to the tenets of the journalist's profession -- to advance truth, without fear of fervor.  In fact, they themselves live on this mantra of "walang kinikilingan, walang pinuprotekahan."

Freedom of speech will not be violated, for opinions can still be freely expressed by partisans, opinion writers, political analysts, and social meda netizens.

But a higher standard should be set to those whose profession rests on unbiased reporting of facts.

Furthermore, ordinary netizens and bloggers could not be accused of practicing without a license, for it would be clear that they will be posting opinions, which is a protected speech, and not objective and factual news, which only licensed professional media practitioners are authorized to do. Hence, the boundaries will be clearer.

Antonio Contreras as posted on Facebook.

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