By Julmunir I. Jannaral
MALACANANG PALACE, Manila
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra urged journalists to report the truth “without fear or favor” during the launching of the webinar series sponsored by the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) entitled “Safeguarding Press Freedom during the COVID-19 Pandemic and the 2022 Elections” held recently. Guevarra serves as chairman of PTFoMS.
The event attended by Metro Manila-based journalists is the first in a series of webinars to roll out nationwide in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Freedom Of Information (FOI) Project Management Program.
CNN’s Dr. Freddie Gomez and veteran journalist Carmelo “Melo” Acuña served as resource speakers while Pia Roces-Morato of the Philippine Star hosted the webinar.
According to Guevarra, “a free and independent press that reports the truth without fear or favor is the greatest weapon against public ignorance and our nation’s best hope in nurturing an informed and engaged electorate” as he recognized the indispensable role of media workers as frontliners.
PTFoMS Co-Chair and PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar, for his part, acknowledged the vital role that technology plays to disseminate information and to communicate to several individuals simultaneously without physical presence, a must during the pandemic.
Andanar lauded the Task Force, as the first and only one of its kind in the world, for going beyond protecting media workers against physical threats of violence, and addressing head-on the perils posed by the pandemic in addition to the uncertainties of the national elections in 2022 through the use of new mediums of communication such as the webinar.
PTFoMS Executive Director Usec. Joel Sy Egco, on the other hand, said that press freedom is a very important hallmark of Philippine democracy.
“While much has been accomplished by the Task Force in improving the country’s human rights situation, particularly in protecting the freedoms of expression, opinion and of the press, there is still more work that needs to be done,” Egco explained during the webinar.
Egco said that the webinar was initiated by the Task Force precisely to intensify the campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte to safeguard press freedom during the pandemic and to protect journalists in the upcoming elections which historically see an increase in media violence.
More than 60 journalists and media workers attended the seminar, representing various media outfits and organizations, including representatives from the National Press Club, the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, CAMANAVA Press Corps, Eastern Police District Press Corps, Manila Police District Press Corps, NCRPO Press Corps, Quezon City Police District Press Corps and the Southern Police District Press Corps.
The next leg of the PTFoMS webinar series will be held in April 2021 for media practitioners in the Bicol Region.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles through a video message implored participating journalists “to provide accurate information to all so as to bridge gaps of misinformation and eliminate misconceptions.”
Nograles explained that “infodemic”, an overabundance of information which may be accurate or not, makes it hard to find trustworthy and reliable guidance resulting in a decline of trust. This is where media workers’ vital role is needed to put an end to the growing surge of misinformation.
PIA Director General Ramon Cualoping III, along with Usec. Kris Ablan of PCOO-FOI, also sent messages of solidarity in support of the PTFoMS webinar. JIJ