This article has been published on Asiancorrespondent.com, August 16, 2010

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Based on form and content, this article was evaluated by my professor and classmates in our online journalism class.  It was indicated that the  links in the article were very helpful in enriching and contextualizing the story. It was also pointed out that the main idea of the lead was a cliche and such cliches must be avoided. Furthermore, it was indicated that the news article was a bit too long and that there were some unnecessary paragraphs that may be cut to make the story tighter and more concise.

The comments about my article reminded me that I should be careful in not giving too much detail in writing stories similar to this one. It also reminded me to proofread my own article before submitting it since the class found a couple of grammatical errors in my article.

Talk highlights vital role of media in fighting corruption

By Mark Christian Manalang QUEZON CITY, Philippines.

Fighting corruption is never easy as pointed out by Wednesday’s symposium, but as said by University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Grace Jamon in her closing statement, “There is hope for as long as there are media people.”

This was the Political Science professor’s concluding words, as a reactor on the 2009 study made and presented by UP Journalism Professor Rachel Khan at UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) Faculty Colloquium.

Prof. Khan’s study titled “Media: A Key Pillar to Good Governance,” stressed that the strengths and opportunities of media in fighting corruption “far outweigh” its threats and weaknesses making its role all the more important.

She said that sustained news reports on government policies and corruption could result to a “heightened sense of accountability and greater transparency” among public agencies and hopefully “lead to public pressure for change.”

She even added that the news reports could enliven public debate and be a basis for government officials who sincerely aim for reforms on corrupt practices.

Media as key Pillar

Her work was premised on a study by World Bank researchers that proposed the establishment of a National Integrated System (NIS) and indicated Media as one of its eight pillars in fighting corruption.

The remaining pillars are public anti-corruption agencies, “watchdog agencies,” public awareness, public perception, the judiciary, the private sector, and international cooperation.

According to the researchers, this NIS which has multi-supporting and interdependent pillars, would work since if one pillar weakens, an increased load is thrown on to the others.

Using the Philippines as her case study, the journalism professor concluded that media has carried much of the load and has the potential of being the most potent pillar.

Watchdogs

She explained how investigative journalism in the Philippines has uncovered the anomalies and irregularities both in the government and the private sector.

She added that investigative reports can help identify the flaws in laws, and legal processes and regulations that contribute to a more “favourable” climate for corruption.

An example she cited among others was the underground reporting of the mosquito press, prior to the EDSA Revolution, which urged the Filipinos to rally against the corrupt and abusive Marcos dictatorship.

Furthermore, she said that media can push for action or reform, promote the anti-corruption efforts of civil groups and prompt action by official bodies investigating corrupt acts.

The ongoing investigation on the 2007 NBN controversy which involved an alleged corruption in the awarding of a US$329 Million contract to a Chinese Telecommunications firm was sparked by a series of headline stories.

Threats and weaknesses

She wrapped up her discussion by stressing that the weaknesses and the threats against media must be addressed to make the industry a more effective tool against corruption.

According to her, the conflicts of interests that stem from the elite ownership of media outlets and bribery must be dealt with.

She cited that newspapers have been used to advance the owner’s business interests and defend their political allies and that reporters have been writing unfairly or not writing at all on significant issues.

The threats she mentioned that have crippled the media were the anti-transparency laws, the numerous libel cases filed against reporters, and the prevalent culture of impunity in the country.

According to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and responsibility (CMFR), some 88 percent of the slain journalists during the Arroyo Administration (2001-2007) were killed because of their efforts in exposing abuses in the local government and the private sector.

Corruption in the Philippines

She pointed out that modern day bureaucratic corruption is rampant despite the existence of 17 government agencies in the country with an anti-corruption mandate.

A 2006 survey by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) showed that the country’s corruption index worsened from a 7.8 rating in 2005 to 9.4 in 2006, in a scale where 10 was the most corrupt.

Also, a 2008 Social Weather Station (SWS) Business Survey on corruption showed that there was a decline in the sincerity rating in fighting corruption of most government agencies.

Recommendations

At the end of the colloquium, she suggested that the passing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill and the creation of a transparency law similar to the “sunshine laws” in the United States would go a long way in media’s fight against corruption.

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