FVR on media and power dynamics

Former President Fidel V. Ramos
Former President Fidel V. Ramos

Jess Dureza shared his Advocacy MindaNOW Foundation, Inc. blog post on former President Fidel V. Ramos’ recent appearance before the Philippine Press Institute. (Dureza is Mindanao Trustee of the PPI.)

The full post is a bit too gushing for my taste. But then Dureza is a genuine fan and true believer of the former Chief Executive.

I do appreciate the shared snippets on FVR’s views about the media. The first thing that flashed in the mind was — guy moves with the times! Also, he probably has something to teach a certain someone who’s two decades younger. 

FVR, the President, pushed the media hard. His was a killer schedule; woe to any slacker assigned to the Palace beat.

He showed flashes of temper but kept clear of displays of pique — Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is champion here though the current occupants of Malacanang come close — or acts of vengeance (think, Erap).

I do remember getting several delivered (or faxed) mail from FVR. These would be photocopies of something I wrote with the famous marginal notes that were his response to the articles. Sometimes there would be a separate letter. This was usually when his rebuttal was over a statement of fact and not just one’s analysis of an issue.

FVR’s love letters were blunt. But he would directly address the disputed points and not belabor his position with insults and other cheap tricks. It actually felt good to get those letters. Because it was clear that the one who penned them took your work very, very seriously.

Here are excerpts from FVR’s talk before the PPI. All notes refer to media issues. These are all taken verbatim from Dureza’s post.

CREDIBLE, NOT RESPONSIBLE — He then turned serious and talked about the responsibilities of media and the basic need to be accurate, independent and accountable, hallmarks of a “credible” press. No, he preferred not to describe media as “responsible press” because it might sound all right at first blush.  “But then, it may be relevant to ask: what do you mean when we say ‘responsible’? By whose standards or by what measures do we consider the press ‘responsible’? If you ask those in government or in politics, being a ‘responsible’ press may mean being less a critic and more a publicist. Being called a ‘credible’ press is better as ‘credibility’ is earned”, he said.
SOCIAL MEDIA —Touching on the challenges posed by social media on the printed press, he noted: “Today’s social media, as a rule, falls short of this imperative (of veracity or accuracy). For example, one who finds a post in Facebook and immediately ‘shares’ or ‘reposts’ or ‘likes’ what someone else posted without verification falls short of this rigorous attribute”.

WATCHING ‘WATCHDOGS’ —He related his natural affection for the press which started when he was still a young boy and his father, the former Foreign Affairs Secretary Narciso Ramos was himself a journalist having published the community paper, the Pangasinan News in Lingayen, Pangasinan in the early 1930’s.   He called on media to continue addressing the challenges of  press freedom, security and  media killings, professionalization and capacitation, redress and self-policing mechanisms, among others.  He welcomed PPI’s planned activation of press councils that would  not only provide a grievance  mechanism for the public but shall be  an “ombudsman” of sorts  to act as watchdogs  to watch over the press.
I definitely like this parsing out of credible vs responsible. Not quite sure I agree with him. But it does show the man’s appreciation of the dynamics between the powers that be and the media. Of course, many sectors will say media is part of the power structure and they’re probably right if we’re talking big, corporate media.

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