3 questions on campus journalism amid the COVID-19 pandemic

It comes as no surprise that the current lockdown has become a de facto crackdown for some of those who dare speak up against the government.

By DANILO A. ARAO
Bulatlat.com

N.B. – A campus journalist asked me three questions on campus journalism in the wake of the harassment and intimidation experienced by a campus journalist in the hands of his former high school teachers (one of whom happens to teach journalism). These answers are worth sharing to a bigger audience.

1. Being an expert on Journalism and immersed in studying fake news, in your opinion, were the Facebook post and Instagram story posted by Joshua Molo, editor-in-chief of the UE Dawn, considered as fake news?

I read his posts on Facebook and Instagram and these are online commentaries protected by free speech and freedom of expression. There is no “hate speech” involved in criticisms of governance and complaints of inefficiency. If we want a more vibrant democracy, we should welcome criticisms and complaints from ordinary citizens, especially the marginalized and underrepresented.

2. Are there laws that pertain to what Manolo did? Does the RA 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” provide measures that would incriminate Manolo? Do you think Campus Journalism is in peril due to the emergency powers the administration holds because of the RA 11469?

A lawyer would be in a better position to answer your question as regards the functions of laws, particularly RA 11469.

From a normative perspective of journalism, however, all freedoms including press freedom have been in danger even before the lockdown. The current situation became an opportunity for the enablers of impunity to silence the press, starting with requiring media accreditation and then proceeding to ban private media inside the Malacañan Palace press briefing room. The provision on RA 11469 which seeks to penalize the spread of “false information” adds insult to injury, so to speak, as it suppresses not just press freedom in particular but also the broader freedom of speech and of expression.

It comes as no surprise that the current lockdown has become a de facto crackdown for some of those who dare speak up against the government. While the high school “journalism” teacher who forced Mr. Molo to publicly apologize wasn’t apparently acting upon the orders of the national government, this so-called teacher is an unwitting enabler of impunity as the repressive act benefits the powers-that-be. Two words: Chilling effect.

3. In your Twitter account, you denounced the shameful acts of Molo’s teachers who were apparently teaching Campus Journalism. Do you think there is a problem in the way journalism is taught in the country?

In a situation where campus journalism at the elementary and high school levels are mainly geared toward focusing on the skills and winning district, regional and national contests, there is indeed a big problem.

Journalism education should focus on teaching the theoretical, empirical and normative dimensions. From my experience giving workshops to journalism teachers and publication advisers nationwide, they usually complain about how they are pressured by school officials and government agencies to produce winners out of campus journalists. This explains why they are sometimes forced to produce an issue of a student publication, for example, that is meant not for students but for judges in certain competitions.

There is a lot to say about the problem with journalism education at the moment. But the basic challenge right now for campus journalists is to stand their ground and remember the role of the campus press in attaining genuine democracy. They should review the history of the Philippine press to realize the vibrancy of campus journalism and the important role it played, for example, in fighting the dictatorship during Martial Law. ()

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