In collaboration with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) organised an activity for an elaborate discussion on human rights, particularly in relation to media practitioners. Amongst the resource persons were training specialists of the Commission, a journalist, as well as law practitioners. The idea was to refresh and increase the COPC’s members’ knowledge on basic concepts and principles on human rights, thereby helping them to become even more effective advocates for press freedom. The activity was conducted in the COPC in Cagayan de Oro City on 26 May 2021 and provided access to members who could only attend online.
“Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are sacred rights that must be upheld at all times,” were shared by Human Rights Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana in her message as words of her late father, Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel III. The protection of all other human rights is said to rest on these two freedoms of the people. As the citizens of our country claim their rights to information, so do the people who bear the responsibility of bringing the truth to the people assert the recognition and protection of their rights. This activity was therefore deemed essential for the media practitioners so as to avoid their unwittingly victimising others or becoming victims themselves.
Representatives from the CHR clarified basic concepts and principles in human rights for the media practitioners. The manner by which media rights and other human rights are inter-related was reviewed in depth. The talk given by the veteran journalist provided a fresh understanding of issues and challenges that threaten the upholding of human rights in the work of media practitioners and journalists. The professor and the law practitioner who elaborated on the legal framework and the everyday application of the relevant laws drew awareness to the need to protect these fundamental rights.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution under Article 3, Section 4 of the Bill of Rights provides, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” Moreover, Section 8 under the same Article states that, “The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged”.
A “free” press is one that is independent of the government and its influences. In a democratic society, a free press is said to be crucial as it contributes to the transparency of the government, and an open and transparent government is said to strengthen democracy.
“…we in the media industry need to sharpen our skills on matters of basic rights so we can be effective advocates for press freedom and a peaceful society.” Manuel V. Jaudian, Ph.D., President, Cagayan de Oro Press Club
The participants had the opportunity to have their knowledge on the basic concepts of human rights and the relationship between human rights and journalism reinforced. The discussions held by the resource persons provided perspectives of the law and of the media practitioners that are often times missed by the public. This served to deepen the participants’ understanding of the laws and their application.
Based on the dynamic exchange between the participants and the resource persons during the question-and-answer portion, the CHR Director for Region 10 observed the opportunity to hold further seminars, with the COPC and with media practitioners in general, in the future for a deeper dive into the role of CHR in promoting human rights, and the different services it has to offer media practitioners and citizens in general.
“Human Rights and the Media” is the third session in the series of talks during the week-long hybrid seminar organised in observation of Press Freedom Week by the Cagayan de Oro Press Club in collaboration with the Commission on Human Rights, with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The next session, to be held in the afternoon of 26 May 2021, will centre on investigative journalism.