By Chit Estella
January 8, 2007
In a television talk show a few nights ago, lawyer Harry Roque swore he would never work with journalists again.
When the talk show host asked why, the usually articulate lawyer who helped file the class action suit against presidential spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo was at a loss for words. Well, he said, more in frustration than in anger, journalists are such “colorful” people.
If colorful was all that Roque meant, his statement would have been puzzling. What’s wrong with being colorful, anyway? But journalists know what Roque meant. There is probably no other group of people that is more disparate, disagreeable, and confounding than journalists. These traits are capped by one other quirk: journalists can be quite egoistic, too. As Luis V. Teodoro said, the egos of some media members can be bigger than cathedrals.
Several journalism students walked into one such cathedral. Some University of the Philippines students volunteered to help gather signatures for the class action suit. In one of the beats, the students, instead of receiving signatures, were berated by the reporters there. A grunt, an indifferent look, or even a simple “No” would have sufficed but the denizens of the ponente beat shooed them away with the threat of “giving them hell” if any of their schoolmates dared to have their internship there. The hostility, however, had nothing to do with the class suit but with the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), specifically PJR Reports.
So what is the lesson from all this? When you see a journalist, turn away before it is too late? That can be one, but you would be missing an experience that is both unique and unforgettable. What stories would you tell your children and grandchildren when they get tired of the usual horror stories?
Seriously, however, the road to victory and redemption is hardly ever smooth. History tends to gloss over the rough spots of an event, emphasizing instead the outcome. The dynamics that characterize relationships are not always revealed and are consequently forgotten. What is remembered is the sweet success that follows a struggle—or the heroism of a heartbreaking defeat.
No one can talk about the struggles of the press during the dictatorship, for example, without remembering Jose Burgos Jr., founder of We Forum and Malaya newspapers. His story was written by someone who has worked closely with him during those years as Malaya’s first editor in chief, Chuchay Molina Fernandez.
Some stories continue to unfold and this is particularly true of the community press. In his work as staffer for CMFR and the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, Nathan Lee has traveled to many provinces to check out reports on the harassment of provincial journalists. In the past few years, such harassments have increasingly led to the death of media practitioners.
Nathan is leaving CMFR for another mission but before doing so, he has co-written an article describing the problems faced by media in various environments that are extremely challenging to press freedom.
It is also timely that this month’s issue should carry a story on the continuing efforts to help secure the safety of journalists. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has come out with a poster on tips for a safer, longer stay in a dangerous profession.
And then there were stories that befuddled and shocked media members themselves. The first refers to an issue that was persistently raised during and after the Subic rape trial: should media have disclosed “Nicole’s” true identity? The second refers to Inquirer columnist Vic Agustin’s water-throwing tantrum during a press conference.
But there is good news, too. Divina Paredes, a Filipino journalist, made it big in New Zealand. A widow when she left the country some years ago, she now lives happily ever after with a nice job, a son—and a hunk of a new husband.