Journalists and their sources 2

Last night’s Big Picture talk show, hosted of course by Ricky Carandang, was “taped as live” at 6 pm, so I had the chance to watch it when it aired at 8 pm. My friend Deannie Bocobo watched it at the same time too, but apparently he was watching a different show. (Insert big smiley face here.)

A few facts, in no particular order.

1. The “shield law” Philippine journalists invoke to protect their sources is not RA 53, but RA 53 as amended (some 10 years after it became law) by RA 1477. The amendment is crucial, because the right of confidentiality was further qualified. The reminder that invoking the right was “Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws” was made explicit. And revelation of sources could be forced only if the “security of the State” was at stake. This qualification considerably narrows the scope of legal compulsion, because originally the “interest of the State” was reason enough. I distinctly remember making this point sometime during the discussion, but perhaps Dean missed it.

2. Vergel Santos most definitely did not say that the Star should fire Jarius Bondoc. What he said was that Jarius asked him, before Jarius decided to out Romy Neri and a few more of Neri’s assertions, whether what he contemplated doing was a firing offense. Vergel said yes, it was or could be considered a firing offense, but whether the Star would fire him would depend on his newspaper’s appreciation of the issue. He definitely did not say that Jarius ought to be fired. Dean’s assertion, that “Vergel Santos opines that Jarius Bondoc ought to be fired for such breach of journalistic confidentiality by the Philippine Star,” makes sense only if, well, he was in fact watching a different show.

3. The words “stands by their story,” which Dean seems to attribute to me, was actually said, with some variation, by Juliet Javellana. Ricky asked me, “Does the Inquirer stand by her [Juliet]?”, to which I answered, “Yes, definitely.” (I know, I know. On this particular point, Dean got the essence of this particular exchange right, but journalism is a matter of details faithfully reported, yes?)

4. Nowhere in the discussion did any of Ricky’s three guests (Vergel, Juliet, and me) say anything about there being “no higher or more inviolable privilege than that of confidentiality between a journalist and his or her sources.” I do not think so; I doubt if the others think so. But we stuck to the matter at hand, and tried to analyze the concept of this journalistic privilege (so intimately related to the free flow of information) on its own merits. If by focusing on the subject matter we were invited to discuss Dean wants to commit (with eyes wide open!) the fallacy of emphasis, well, that is his own lookout. None of us had the chance to talk about other “codes of confidentiality” —- for instance, the lawyer-client privilege, or the privileged nature of communication between spouses, or the seal of confession.

I could go on, but Ricky’s show will be replayed at 1 pm, a few minutes from now. It occurs to me, maybe if I watch it again, I might finally catch that dang show Dean was watching!



Filed under Readings in Media

4 responses to “Journalists and their sources 2

  1. John,
    The point stands that Journalistic Privilege is only one of the many institutional privileges that are currently in collision and conflict. There has to be “moderation” and mutual respect in the exercise of these rights and privileges.

    I think it was even more unethical for PDI to use the journalistic privilege to disrespect the Senate’s privilege for conducting its executive sessions with confidentiality than what Jarius Bondoc did.

    Personally I think you guys just made up the whole story and there are no sources at all. It’s just the usual kuryente by innuendo. But I can’t prove that can I?

    Can you confirm or deny the rumor I have heard that there were some senators (Legarda, Roxas, Aquino and Madrigal) who talked to the reporter, but then again who knows what they actually said to her?

  2. What makes your story incredible is the claim that Joker Arroyo could’ve somehow overruled all the Opposition senators, including chairmen of the participating committee.

    But the damage you have done to an institution that deserves your support in regaining their proper place in the government rests in the casting of four apples of discord into an already explosive mix.

    Just because you don’t now agree with Joker Arroyo doesn’t give you guys the right to demean the entire Senate by your own squid tactics.

    There are limits to the Journalistic Privilege. I hope the Senate will exercise its powers and sanction both reporter and any senators found to be breaking the Rules of the Game.

    Poor Juliet Labog, she even admitted on Ricky’s show that she “is only doing what my boss says.”

    If she has to go to jail, it’ll serve her boss right, whoever it is.

  3. You guys think you can get away with anything, hiding under the skirts of lady Press Freedom. I hope the Senate will teach you a lesson, a serious lesson about democracy and the “security” of the State. I must admit they are a bunch of whores for the Press over there, so you are probably safe. But not from the vast audience of History, believe me!

  4. Anonymity is the last refuge of scoundrels!

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