journalists in a jam #cj trial

first chay hofilena, rappler‘s citizen journalism director, came out with Why media should connect the dots, where in essence she says that in this historic impeachment trial of a chief justice, media, rather than remain neutral and detached, should search for the truth and, having gained expertise, should then connect the dots, interpret and analyze events, for the public to better understand the issues and their implications.  etc. etc. etc.  obviously it is the rationale for rappler’s biased journalism which they now call citizen journalism.  okay, fine, citizen journalism is about advocacy…

next came the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (cmfr)’s tweet: How is the press faring in its Corona impeachment trial coverage?  there weren’t many replies but mostly asking media to tell it like it is, with less bias, more fairness and objectivity.  mostly directed @inquirer and @cmfr.  curiously, none @rappler.  can it be that respondents are already making a distinction between mainstream and online journalism, between traditional and citizen journalism?  hindi okay na maging biased ang inquirer, pero okay na maging biased ang rappler?  if yes, that’s unexpected, because hofilena does not bother to make any kind of distinction, as though speaking for all journalism…

then came the news that journalists raissa robles, criselda yabes, and maritess danguilan vitug were on the list of prosecution witnesses, but all three are saying they won’t testify.  robles says she has no personal knowledge of the allegations, yabes says she has never written about corona, vitug says her works speak for themselves.

i was still thinking that around when this reaction from lawyer ted te came in:

… calling media practitioners to testify on work product is indicative of a short cut approach to finding the truth; much of the work that media has done in reporting these matters is already part of the public consciousness and may already be considered subject of the collective, institutional and even personal knowledge of the Senate, acting as jury; there is really no need to call media practitioners to testify.

and this from defense spokeslady karen jimeno:

[The] prosecution has pierced the veil of confidentiality with the [income tax returns], let us not drag the media and place it on the witness stand. The Media is not on trial here. Prove your case by doing your work in research and litigation.

at first, i couldn’t understand where ted te was coming from — if what media has reported re cj corona has already become “part of the public consciousness,” would it not do the public good to see and hear the journalists validated, attesting to the reports under oath?

unless, of course, the fear is that the reports are not based on personal knowledge and might not stand up to direct and cross examination?  the “collective knowledge” is based on unfounded reports?  this would explain jimeno’s statement that to put journalists on the witness stand is to put media on trial?

media’s in a fix.  hofilena is saying that journalists are experts in their fields of study:

Because journalists have access to documents and officials elected to public office, they are in a better position to make sense of conflicting versions of the truth. Does this bestow on them the title of “expert?” Does this put them on a pedestal superior to their audience?

Admittedly, a journalist who has done extensive research, spent long hours poring over documents or interviewing insiders and people on the ground with intimate knowledge of details related to the articles of impeachment, earns a degree of expertise. After all, an academic who does the exact same thing in a particular field, is acknowledged as an expert in that field. What makes a journalist any different?

and yet the journalists who-might-be-witnesses do not seem to be confident of their so-called expertise.  because why else would they refuse to testify?  why else would they not jump at the chance to take their anti-corona advocacy to a higher level, help the prosecution prove its case not only via newspapers and news blogs but all the way to the impeachment court?

and what would that say of the quality of the “expert” reportage and analysis we are getting from these journalists?  only good enough for a lethargic … lazy … simply apathetic … and, maybe, a gullible public?

just asking.


  1. nini yarte

    Journalists are gun-shy, well, because their credibility will be put under the gun. Facetiousness aside, they have to testify under oath. Their testimony must be based on first-hand knowledge. Robles said it for the rest of them — that she has no personal knowledge of the allegations. They cannot testify that the Corona party, let alone Corona himself, confirmed their stories. Rappler, for instance, based its supposed WB expose on a Palace briefer that was sent to selected media entities. It did not even bother to verify the Palace spin with the World Bank. Mostly, I think, they fear the reprisal of the thinking few.

    • ‘under the gun’ is a morbid pun. journalists, ‘citizen’ or not, have a right to life too.

      in any case, hearsay has exceptions. for example, under ‘res gestae’, a journalist is allowed to testify on statements made spontaneously at the time of an event.

  2. I object to Nini Yarte’s tasteless puns in the strongest possible terms. Considering that this country has been identified in years past as the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, making light of the perils that media workers face is inexcusably offensive.

    As for the issues raised in the original post, it is worth noting that: (1) courts conceive of expertise differently; and (2) Hofileña’s self-aggrandizing piece is not (I hope) an accurate depiction of how journalists in general think.

  3. Leon Guerrero was dumbfounded and exasperated in the proceedings yesterday (Please watch the video or read articles on it somewhere out there.). It was on account of Cong. Umali’s “brilliance” as a lawyer.

    Perhaps, we may help the honorable Senator-Judge…

    In the title of Art. 2 of the AOI, and Paragraphs 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3, the QUESTION is:

    Did Corona publicly disclose his SALN?

    Obviously, “NO, he didn’t.

    It’s just now that we came to know Corona’s SALN. Leon Guerrero had read it also this January 2012.


    To Tupas, Umali, Barzaga, and others:

    Better call Vitug (and those who requested for the CJ’s SALN) to the witness stand and ask her (them) if she (they) was (were) given a copy of the CJ’s SALN she (they) requested.

    This will connect the dots and Leon Guerrero will most likely understand that you have proven your allegations in Art. 2 of the AOI when Vitug et al will answer in the NEGATIVE.

    • One caveat though…if no one really requested for the CJ’s SALN then this strategy will again crumble to the prosecutor’s faces.

      I believe the requests for SALNs in the past were not specific to the CJ’s copy.