July 26, 2020 (10:59 AM)

5 min read

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PRINCIPLED SERVICE. Al Jazeera correspondent and Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) President Jamela Alindogan asserts the roles of journalists during times of conflict highlighting the impacted marginalized individuals during the webinar on, “Truth to Power: Journalism and Brave Storytelling in the Philippines” organized by SAMAHAN and SINIKOM. Screenshot by Kevin Cody Mahinay

In a webinar highlighting ‘brave storytelling’ in the Philippines, Al Jazeera correspondent and Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) President Jamela Alindogan pointed out that the bigger responsibility of journalists, aside from reporting facts, is to capture the stories of the marginalized, the powerless, and voiceless.

The webinar organized by the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Sining at Komunikasyon (SINIKOM) sought to discuss the role of journalism in speaking truth to power, especially amid pressing issues such as the recently passed Anti-Terror law.

Alindogan, who has spent her career in journalism covering conflict, shared key points to the participating student journalists.

“The main impact is to make sure that journalism becomes very accurate that you provide a real picture of what is important, of what is happening on the ground, timely and accurately. But most importantly, that you get the side of those who are voiceless,” she expressed.

“Remember who you serve in a conflict. Remember at the end of the day, what is your biggest responsibility? Your biggest responsibility is to the public,” she said.

Asserting the importance of fortitude and courage, Alindogan pointed out that times of conflict are one of the best times to become a journalist.

“Because those who have wanted to do this for a long time, those who believe in the power of storytelling, of writing no, these are the times we were actually trained to stand up and to speak up for those who are voiceless,” she said.

She also stressed that journalists should not only present the two opposing sides of the story, but also those who are caught in between.

“The important part of the journalist role and skill is to make the invisible visible. When you’re on the ground, even if you’re not on the frontlines, you can still see things that people in other parts of the country or the world cannot see. Your duty is to provide the nuances when you report,” she said.

In terms of security issues and threats when delivering a controversial topic, she stated that professionalism, accuracy, and fairness are the best ways to protect oneself.

“Your best line of defense is your professionalism and accuracy because facts are facts. They cannot be disputed. Stories on the ground by real people who are most affected cannot be disputed,” she answered.

Alindogan reminded the audience to stay focused and to realize that journalism just goes beyond writing a report. For her, it is an advocacy and an act of defiance to ensure that democracy is maintained. 

“I hope you remain passionate, principled, and never ever compromise your integrity and your principles for anything. Remember that a life of journalist is difficult… Journalism is very witness to the suffering of others. Journalism is in the service of others,” she declared.

“Journalism is also a form of patriotism and love for the country. It is a testament, every single report that you do will be a testament to your love for those who are marginalized and poor, and that is a huge huge responsibility.”

Impact of the Anti-Terror Law

In the context of the recently signed Anti-Terrorism Law, Alindogan asserted the importance of sensitivity and accuracy in news reports.

“… You cannot just loosely use the word terrorism in every single report. It can actually cost people’s lives and families destroyed,” she said.

“As a journalist, we do not have, personally I think, the mandate to use that word–terrorist. Because like I said, for every man’s terrorist, it is another person’s freedom fighter,” she continued.

Arguing that the cause of terrorism is not terrorism per se but social injustice, Alindogan said that journalists need to be able to understand that “the issue of peace, the issue of security, the issue of social injustice is intergenerational.”

While it is highly unlikely that armed violence in the country will end by 2022, she cited Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta Director Sidney Jones who emphasized that there has not been a single anti-terror law anywhere in the world that was able to stop rebellion or a terrorist act.

“The answer is not militarization law. The answer will not be force.  It will have to be a whole-of-nation approach as the state likes to call it–it has to be holistic and it has to be rooted in justice and social equality.”

Conflict Reporting 

Towards the end of the webinar, Alindogan challenged the audience to unpack the layers of conflict and violence.

“Our report should stand out from the rest with incisive editorial ability, and we should be careful. When we start to report on conflict, it is important that we do not glorify the war but focus rather on the devastating impact on the most vulnerable,” she said.

In this light, it is important that the discussion be “multipronged and rights-based with the emphasis on historical roots.”

SINIKOM President Carl Maglinte believes the webinar was important not only for communication majors but to students in general for them “to understand the value of every word [they] say and write especially about issues concerning terrorism.”

Maglinte said that the talk should serve as an eye-opener to the huge responsibility that future media-practitioners will have to carry. He also hopes that his fellow student could discover the gravity of their involvement. 

 “… the desire for awareness within oneself should be the first we develop. I hope to not only help my fellow students in learning something new but also make them discover the gravity of their involvement especially in hard times like this.” he said



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