Journ Classroom

May 26, 2007

Global Investigative Journalism Conference Opens

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 1:13 am

Toronto, Canada—The doors to the conference venue opened and delegates started finding their seats, surprised to find a band already revved up onstage, and what looked like African drums on every chair in the cavernous ballroom of the Toronto Hilton.

drumcafe.jpg“What are we supposed to do with these drums?” Toronto-based journalist Marites Sison and I wondered, as we got settled.

It didn’t take long for us to find the answer, and it was an exhilarating, invigorating one. For the next 45 minutes or so, we and the hundreds of other journalists who came to Toronto for the conference, found ourselves pounding away at the drums and swaying to the rhythm of the Drum Café, a group that has been working conferences like this, eliciting audience participation in a unique and energizing team building experiglobal-drums.jpgence.

“It is our job to demonstrate the importance of working as a team, playing to the same beat, listening to each other, and how individual roles/rhythms, large or small, impact the entire organization,” said the Drum Café in the flyers we found in our seats.

And so it was that Drum Café lifted the spirits of the delegates, 550 from 44 countries, who came to take part in the four-day Global Investigative Journalism Conference. Our spirits definitely needed lifting because, as keynote speaker Lowell Bergman, award-winning

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May 15, 2007

Philippine Elections as Classroom – 2

Filed under: general,News — Luz Rimban @ 6:07 pm

If Philippine elections were a classroom and electoral fraud the previous days’ lesson, then the people and civil society groups listened and learned. The media didn’t. The people and civil society got it. The media didn’t (some, at least).

The one central issue in the 2007 elections is the unresolved cheating of the past. Those who are looking for or dredging up other issues are unlikely to find any that will stick, or that will draw people’s attention and interest. The one thing that mattered to Filipinos was the systematic, wholesale cheating that took place in 2004—evidence of which came in the form of the “Hello, Garci” recordings—which remains unpunished to this day.

And yet how come (some in) the media didn’t get it? Was it fear? Vested interest? Bias? A misreading of the situation?

Friends and I were talking about this while we were in Davao last month. Ellen noted how (some) media organizations had failed to highlight “Hello, Garci” as an election issue, and how they seemed all too willing to let administration candidates off the hook, specially those who deliberately ignored the “Hello, Garci” question. Bon said that one TV network’s election special focused on issues like jobs, housing, health care, and the like, which were more suited to elections for president (or maybe local executives) rather than elections for the national legislature where each candidate is expected to have his or her own advocacy, not to mention knowledge of law-making.

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May 14, 2007

Philippine Elections as Classroom

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 9:28 pm

There are three first-time voters in our family, and they took their right of suffrage very seriously. Last night, on the eve of elections, they sat down and carefully read the official list of candidates mailed to them by the Commission on Elections.

Then they highlighted the names of their chosen candidates, discussing with each other the pros and cons of every candidate on their list. They did not impose their candidates on others and made it a point to say they respected each others’ choices. They consulted me on some of their choices and I must say they had names on their list that weren’t on mine.

They looked forward to today with eager anticipation. After all, it was a feat just to have been able to register last December, when they braved the heat, the crowds and the notorious inefficiency of the Commission on Elections just to get their names on the voters’ list.

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May 11, 2007

“The Other Journalist”

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 3:34 pm

The title comes from the March issue of the Philippine Journalism Review (PJR) Reports, whose main article is a feature story on the plight of Filipino photojournalists. On the cover is veteran photojournalist Bullit Marquez of the Associated Press, and the photo was taken by PJR staff photographer Lito Ocampo.

The articles can be accessed through the PJR Reports website.

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April 29, 2007

The War on Journalism

Filed under: News — Luz Rimban @ 12:10 am

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has released its annual report World Press Freedom Review in which it describes 2006 as “the most savage and brutal year in the modern history of the media.” IPI has listed a casualty count of 100 journalists killed. Nearly half the death toll, 46 journalists, were killed in Iraq alone. The other countries considered deadly for journalists are Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico, and Sri Lanka.

It is tragic that in Iraq and elsewhere, while journalists are covering the war on terrorism, they themselves are combatants in a war to protect press freedom, which is coming under attack in various parts of the world.

American investigative reporter David Kaplan writes about this in his Bad Guys Blog. Kaplan is the chief investigative correspondent of US News and World Reports.

April 23, 2007

Summer Communications Trainings

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 10:58 pm

For journalists and journalism teachers who want to hone skills or acquire new ones during the summer break, here’s an announcement from the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication. If you’re interested, please contact the College of Mass Comm Foundation Inc for the fees and other requirements. Contact details are in the letter below, sent by the UP-CMCFI.

Dear Ladies/Gentlemen;

Greetings! We would like to inform you that the U.P. College of Mass Communication Foundation, Inc. (UP-CMCFI) will offer several mass communication seminar-workshops this summer, specially designed for mass media educators and practitioners who are interested in upgrading their skills and knowledge in mass media. All of the summer- workshops will be conducted by the faculty members of the three departments of the U.P. College of Mass Communication, namely, the Broadcast Communication, Communication Research and the Journalism Department. The workshops are:

Broadcast Communication:

Basic Radio Announcing/Performance May 2-4
Basic TV Announcing /Performance May 9-11
Writing and Reporting News for Radio and TV May 14-18
Dealing with the Broadcast Media May 21-25

Communication Research:

Organizing and teaching communication theory May 14-15
Communication Research and Effects Theories May 16
Communication Research and Critical Theories May 17
Communication Research and Contextual Theories May 18
Quantitative Research in Communication May 21-24
Qualitative Research in Communication May 28-31

Journalism

Newsletter Production April 23-27
News Website Production May 7-11
Photojournalism May 23-25

Discounts are available at 10% for early bird registration, group registration (at least 3 persons) and UP community registrants. The number of slots per class is limited to 15-20 persons, so please send your reservations early. For more information please call CMCFI office at 9206864 or email at ilenedejesus@gmail.com. Thank you very much.

April 21, 2007

Rizal Yuyitung, 1922-2007

Filed under: News — Luz Rimban @ 11:30 pm

My friend and colleague Yvonne Chua sent me a text from Hanoi asking me to pass on to Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Conrad de Quiros and other Filipino journalists the message that Rizal Yuyitung had passed away in Toronto, Canada on April 19.

Rizal Yuyitung is one of two brothers, the older one being Quintin, who published and managed the Chinese Commercial News (CCN), the leading Chinese daily in the Philippines prior to the declaration of Martial Law. The brothers experienced the iron fist of state repression in the 1960s and became symbols of press freedom under attack.

The book The Case of the Yuyitung Brothers: Philippine Press Freedom Under Siege (2000), compiled and edited by Rizal Yuyitung had a foreword written by former Senate President Jovito Salonga. Here is an excerpt:

….in 1962, at the start of the (Diosdado) Macapagal Administration, the two brothers and the CCN staff were arrested and detained by the military due to the “publication from 1949 to 1962 of news items and articles which are (1) favorable to the Communist cause in general, (2) derogatory to the government of the Republic of the Philippines and (3) intended to influence the local Chinese community to be sympathetic with the Communist regime in Red China.” I can only think of a few narrow-minded officers in the military establishment during Macapagal’s time who would conceive of such high-faluting nonsense.

The brothers were later released but the case, and the threat of deportation, remained hanging over their heads. It was to be revived years later by President Ferdinand Marcos, during the time that was marked by student unrest and daily rallies, with the bloodiest taking place in the last days of January into February 1970, the period that would later be called the First Quarter Storm.

“The local newspapers reported these events, and the Chinese Commercial News did so, with admirable objectivity and fairness,” wrote Salonga. But the Marcos government, like the Macapagal administration before it, literally saw red.

yuyitung.jpg

In the same book, the Yuyitung brothers’ lawyer at that time (now Senator) Joker Arroyo, narrated what happened to them in 1970:

So one fine day in March 1970, immigration agents swooped down on Quintin and Rizal and arrested them with the plan to summarily deport them as undesirable aliens.

Their offense? Publishing in their paper, the CCN, news about conditions in the communist mainland. But CCN did not invent any news. What they published were news reports from the international wire services namely, Associated Press, Reuters, Agence-France Press, and United Press International….

… Since the charges could not stick, the Yuyitung brothers, under false pretenses, were lured in the dead of night out of their house by immgration agents, forcibly brought to Basa Air Base and turned over to the Philippine military authorities. They were forcibly put on board a Philippine Air Force plane, which whisked them off to Taipeh and were turned over to the Taiwan Garrison Command. It was kidnapping plain and simple perpetrated by conspiracy of two governments. So sudden and lightning was the kidnapping that they did not even have toothbrush or any toiletries with them.

…. Question: Quintin and Rizal, who were both born and lived all their lives in the Philippines, had never been to Taiwan. True they remained Chinese citizens, but how could the Taiwan Garrison Command try them for what they allegedly committed, not in Taiwan but in the Philippines?

…. After the kangaroo trial, the military court sentenced Quintin to two years and Rizal to three years of reformatory education.

Years later, in 1972, when Marcos declared Martial Law, the military again swooped down on CCN in the wave of arrests of journalists and Marcos opponents. They arrested Veronica Yuyitung, painter and wife of Rizal Yuyitung.

Forty-five years since the Yuyitung brothers were first arrested, the country is back under the rule of a Macapagal, and the press is still under attack. Forty-five years later, Filipinos would do well to remember the words of Quintin Yuyitung, spoken in 1973 after he was released:

Public officials should not be sensitive to criticism and exposure of the press as such is the only means with which the people can help the government correct errors and suppress abuses. The press is only the extension of the people’s thinking. The suppression of the press is tantamount to the right of the people to think and of the opportunity to help the government discover the truth. The other function of the press is to inform. If the people are not properly informed, how could they think properly? What freedom do we have left if we are not even allowed to think?

After their incarceration in Taiwan, the brothers moved to North America, Quintin to the United States and Rizal to Canada. Quintin Yuyitung died years ago and although Rizal’s demise the other day, as one friend said, signals the passing of an era, a new generation of like-minded journalists has taken their place.

Blaming the dead

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 8:59 am

It’s so easy to blame the dead. Dead men (and women) can’t talk and defend themselves. And to blame them for the tragedy that befalls them is the height of insensitivity, callousness and irresponsibility.

I saw this mindset at work just recently during a family tragedy. My cousin, a seaman, died in Argentina less than two weeks after their ship left malaria-infested Dhoala in Cameroon. When we were arranging to have his remains flown home, someone from the company explained his death: “Kasi hindi ho siya uminom ng gamot na anti-malaria eh (Because he didn’t drink anti-malaria medicine).” I seethe every time I remember that conversation.

Now Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales says Julia Campbell was to blame for the fate that befell her. That’s what you get for walking alone in a foreign land; if not for what you did, this wouldn’t have happened, is Gonzales’ message.

Yes, yes, at the back of our minds, we think those thoughts. Why, Eric, why did you not take those anti-malaria pills? Why, Julia, why were you out walking all alone at dusk? Those who grieve cry out those questions, directed at no one in particular. They also know those questions are likely to remain unanswered forever, but the mere act of asking the question takes them a step nearer to closure. For closure to be achieved, those left behind need to know what truly happened.

But for a government official, and a Secretary of Justice at that, to voice those thoughts and make them the official line is the height of tactlessness and insensitivity, to be kind about it. The subliminal message was that the Philippine government had nothing to with Julia’s death, and worse, can’t be blamed if justice isn’t served.

In my cousin’s case, the shipping company should be responsible for the welfare and well-being of its employees, Eric included. In the same manner, the Philippine government should be responsible for the safety and well-being of its citizens and guests, Julia included.
But that is not what is happening. “Don’t look at us,” Eric’s company was practically saying. “Don’t look at us,” said the Justice Secretary in not so many words, washing his own, and the government’s, hands of any blame.

April 20, 2007

Two journalists

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 10:45 am

Two stories dominated today’s news: the murder of the Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell and the attempted murder of Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent Delfin Mallari.

Campbell had worked as a journalist in New York before she left to join the Peace Corps. She had been working in the Philippines for two years and endeared herself to people and communities she worked with. And now she’s gone, just like that, killed by some deranged Filipino in Ifugao. Her death is such a big loss to Filipinos, to the Peace Corps, and to the American people.

I don’t know Mallari but I do know that what happened to him has unnerved many journalists. Joyce Pañares of the Manila Standard Today was texting me about something else yesterday when she said she was depressed over what happened to Delfin. The prevailing sentiment, I think, is that if it can happen to someone from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country’s leading newspaper, it can surely happen to journalists from any of the lesser known papers and community newspapers. I do hope Mallari gets all the protection (trusted) authorities can give him.

What is happening to the Philippines? Lawlessness seems to be everywhere, from Ifugao to Quezon province. Killers are so bold they commit crimes in the open and in broad daylight, to Filipinos and foreigners alike. There is no respect for life at all anymore. And as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, I’m sure the government will only say they will get to the bottom of the attacks on Julia Campbell and Delfin Mallari, form Task Forces to find the killers, and then promptly forget them. How have we gotten to this?

January 16, 2007

Teaching Teachers

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 8:07 pm

It’s unlikely I will forget 2006. It was the year when my world turned upside down, making me realize I was standing on my head all along, being made a fool of by so-called friends and colleagues.  2006 put me back on my feet, in many ways, and made me see the world right side up again.

Anyway, as the year was coming to an end, I found myself giving a lecture to (former) fellow teachers at the Journalism Department of the UP College of Mass Communication. We were more or less of the same age, and perhaps similar mindsets, all wanting to retool. In this case, retooling meant learning the basics of visual storytelling and video editing.

I was asked to give the lecture, but my name, I was told, cropped up only as a second choice, after they considered asking someone who did weddings and funerals. The KBL type (Kasal, Binyag, Libing). Oh, what a compliment!

And as we were saying our goodbyes, we gathered around my Mac for a souvenir.

photo-52.jpg

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