June 6, 2023


With the intensive use of the social media platforms as a source of information for some time now, made more essential during this pandemic, we can assume most already have come across fake news or, more aptly, misinformation or disinformation that are intentionally written to spread lies in the most convenient and fastest medium.
Aside from the threats currently faced by Filipino journalists and press freedom in general across administrations, disinformation may be considered now as one of the greatest challenges for the members of the Fourth State, whose loyalty must unchangingly be to the truth, by being independent and being purveyors of accurate information, especially those who remain in the realm of providing news reportage via print, TV, and radio that have also employed online platforms.
Pessimists might say it is impossible to win over misinformation, as well as the “farms” of Internet trolls, or those that “purposefully cause confusion or harm to other users online for no reason at all” or disrupt their rivals’ activities and manipulate online users’ perceptions.
We agree that dealing with these threats may not be easy, and we also acknowledge there had been attempts in the past by the Cordillera media to police their own ranks in the form of a press council that led to the opening of a complaints center for those who have concerns on the way media do its job or call them out for deeds unbecoming of a journalist, which unfortunately was not sustained.
But we choose to believe credible information is still what the public demands and it cannot be supplanted by misinformation. We choose to believe that we can maintain media credibility and independence through close yet critical collaboration with the community which the media serves and provides with information they need to know.
Coming together for discussions in a rather difficult time for the profession, Cordillera journalists made a first, crucial step to deal with these pressing issues. By strengthening their partnership and engagement with citizens and communities within their area of coverage, the Cordillera journalists have recently made the commitment to open avenues to improve their profession, maintain their credibility, and foster credible sources of information.
Last week, Cordillera journalists took some time off from their coverage grind to sit down with representatives from citizen organizations to explore the possibility of coming up with a self-regulating mechanism with the guidance of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network.
The initiative gave birth to the Kordil-yera Media-Citizen Council (KMCC), which turns out to be the first mechanism of its kind in Asia comprising all stakeholders in one council, as confirmed by country director Greg Kehailia of Internews Philippines, whose project, the USAID-funded Party for the Initiative for Media Freedom, backed the realization of the media-citizen engagement in the region.
The council envisions empowered communities nurtured by truthful, relevant, and responsible information by maintaining credibility and freedom of the press and dealing with fake news dissemination through harmonious yet critical partnership between media and civil society. Its goal is to serve as a bridge between communities and decision-makers through truthful and responsible reportage of relevant and cre-dible civil society.
Aside from strengthened ties between the media and community, the multi-sector council aims to build networks of informed public, help the Cordillera media maintain credibility and address misinformation and disinformation, and help promote and recognize credible sources of information.
Among the ways planned to put these goals into action are capacity building, helping communities have better access to relevant information materials, and regular assessment of media coverage.
We could not help but be proud that the media-citizen engagement was set up, and all the more because the stakeholders devoted their time and allowed themselves to undergo rigorous training to form the council on their own.
But the initiative has a long way to go. It has not even taken off yet. Instead of gi- ving themselves a pat on the back, the media and citizen group partners should realize the vastness of the responsibility they have taken upon themselves in establishing the first-of-its-kind council, because all its righteous intentions would be for naught without full commitment.
Will it work? Can pessimists be proven wrong? It remains to be seen. While times have changed, we choose to believe the public still considers its right to information a vital right, and would loathe and fight attempts to misinform them. With this, we hope committing ourselves to help the KMCC realize its goals will not be half-hearted, or worse, be a classic case of ningas cogon.