by H. Marcos C. Mordeno
26 June 2009
Marcos C. Mordeno was invited to speak as a media representative at the 25 June workshop on R2P Promotion and Constituency-Building in the Philippines: Perspectives from Stakeholders, organized by the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. See his speech below:
(…) History tells us that in many cases statistics, although significant, has not had been the number one factor in mobilizing international action for victims of mass hunger and slaughter. It was the evolution of world public opinion, fed by media reports and images of suffering that forced the hand of world leaders and/or the United Nations. Non-government organizations and similar types of pressure groups also contributed through their advocacies, which in the final analysis, really had to rely on the inherent power of the media to influence the course of policy. (…)
Conversely, the inability of information to go beyond national borders – which has become improbable nowadays due to advances in communications technology – has been the biggest stumbling block to positive action. (…)
(…) the obsession to outdo each other in delivering the freshest news (…) what often come out are details lacking coherence and worse, half truths that distort the entire picture as well as stories that fail to capture the most important angle of an event, i.e. the extent of human suffering. (…)
But journalists are not solely to blame for the low statistics of human rights stories. In some cases, media ownership is a factor that influences reportage (…)
Moreover, civil society groups oftentimes lack savvy in media work. There are also no programmed efforts by these groups to educate journalists on human rights so as to improve the quality of reports. (…)
(…) In earlier workshops with fellow journalists in Mindanao it came out that many lack basic understanding on human rights concepts and that human rights reporting is not a priority among them. (…) This appears to be the reason why despite technological advances human rights issues have remained largely underreported, or maybe “misreported”.
The point here is that the failure – or refusal – of media to report extensively and comprehensively on situations that threaten the wellbeing and security of peoples would spell the difference between dying and surviving (…). Their ultimate agenda may not be to influence policymaking, and, by the nature of their profession as “objective” harbingers of information, journalists may not be invited as organic members of this initiative. But by churning out stories told from the viewpoint of the victims themselves and from their own introspection as human beings first and journalists second, members of the Fourth Estate shall have accomplished this unsolicited task.