MANILA, Philippines, 25 December 2004
After months of research, the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) – APC member in the Philippines- convened a validation workshop to discuss the findings of its ongoing Philippine Communication Rights Report last October 6, 2004 at the Institute of Social Order, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).
“Interrogating Communication Rights: Philippine Spaces for Articulation and Action” gathered civil society organisations, members of academe and media, and government officials including the Chair of the newly established Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), Virgilio Peña, who gave the Welcome Remarks. About 70 people attended the workshop.
Chat Garcia-Ramilo of the Women’s Networking Support Programme of the Association of Progressive Communications (APC) presented the Communication Rights Framework developed by Sean O’Siochru of the CRIS Campaign. She explained that the articulation of communication rights has been conditioned by the need to extend the common notion of human rights to the demands of an emerging “Information Society”.
A panel of reactors from academe, government and civil society also gave comments to the Framework:
Dr. Benjamin Tolosa, Chair of the Political Science Department of ADMU, observed that the challenge in using the framework lies in “going beyond overt inference and coercion since communications media operates in terms of consent and legitimation. Certain trade regimes, [for instance] have come to appear as the natural order of things, privileging certain groups over others.”
Anthropologist Dr. Raul Pertierra, on the other hand, asserted that the framework follows what he termed as an information model where the paramount goal of communication is the mere satisfaction of exchange. “The model [hardly accounts for] meaningful communications or discourse nor requires the transmission of a fair, accurate, and inclusive communications.”
Cheekay Cinco of WomensHub (also a member of APC, and a partner in the project) also gave specific comments on how to make the Communication Rights framework more gender sensitive.
FMA Executive Director Alan Alegre, who presented the highlights of the Philippine Communication Rights Report, said gave the major trends in the Philippines with regards to Communication Rights insofar as it applies to media, information and communications in the country. Issues discussed included:
- concentrated ownership of media and ICT resources viz. low universal access/service
- media commercialization and the corruption of media practitioners
- “soft” or self-censorship of content
- private sector regulatory capture of ICT policies
- and the alignment of the country’s view of knowledge and intellectual “property” with existing trade regimes.
These were all anchored on the socio-political analysis of the reality of a “weak” Philippine state.
Other identified “hot” issues include the deteriorating welfare and safety of journalists. The spate of killings of media practitioners has also been alarming with 61 Filipino journalists having been killed since 1986, and 13 being killed in 2004 alone.
Responses to the report were given by Damian Mapa (member of the newly-formed Philippine Commission of ICT), Fr. Albert Alejo SJ (a Catholic priest and Executive Director of the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue), and Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (a progressive member of the Philippine Congress).
Fr. Alejo and Rep. Hontiveros-Baraquel also joined Jeremiah Opiniano of the Overseas Filipino Workers Journalism Consortium, in discussing specific areas Communication Rights engagement paticularly relevant to the Philippine experience:
- Communication Rights and Religions, Churches, and Faiths;
- Communication Rights in Situations of Armed Conflict;
- Communication Rights and Migrants/Diaspora communities
A lively open forum followed with suggestions of further improving the framework, and popularizing Communication Rights work in the various local regions of the country.
Several Philippine NGOs met the following day to discuss further how the campaign could be brought forward in the Philippines.
The validation workshop was part of a project implemented by FMA with APC and the CRIS Campaign, and is also aimed at producing advocacy training materials for Communication Rights activists in the pilot countries (Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, and Italy/EU). This global project has received valuable support from the Ford Foundation.
(Nina Somera/Al Alegre, FMA)