Image Source: rappler.com
Image Source: rappler.com

Detained Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada has a pending bill titled Magna Carta for Journalists (Senate Bill No. 380), which urges Philippine Congress to make it a government policy to have “security of tenure, human conditions of work and a living wage” for journalists but it never got past the committee stage.

While the bill is well intentioned, the Center of Media Freedom and Responsibility finds it wanting of rights and privileges that envisage the original Great Charter or the Bill of Rights.

For me, for the bill to be viable, the responsibility of providing “security of tenure” is on the employers or media owners, not on the lowly employees or journalists who are the victims of the hazards of the trade.

That is why if media employers were given some tax breaks by the government. These tax benefits would be withdrawn if they are not providing the “minimum wage” to media workers.

It is a common knowledge that well-known “talking heads” or “news readers” in the television and radio industries command top salaries. Why can’t television owners start to peg the distribution of the salaries gradually from top to bottom without providing a big gap of salaries in the middle?

After all, most of the hard-working reporters are on the front lines. I remember that during the super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), nearly a dozen of reporters were killed in Ground Zero while the top anchors were safely ensconced in their air-conditioned peacock thrones, far-a Detained Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada has a pending bill titled Magna Carta for Journalists (Senate Bill No. 380), which urges Philippine Congress to make it a government policy to have “security of tenure, human conditions of work and a living wage” for journalists but it never got past the committee stage.

While the bill is well intentioned, the Center of Media Freedom and Responsibility finds it wanting of rights and privileges that envisage the original Great Charter or the Bill of Rights.

For me, for the bill to be viable, the responsibility of providing “security of tenure” is on the employers or media owners, not on the lowly employees or journalists who are the victims of the hazards of the trade.

That is why if media employers were given some tax breaks by the government. These tax benefits would be withdrawn if they are not providing the “minimum wage” to media workers.

It is a common knowledge that well-known “talking heads” or “news readers” in the television and radio industries command top salaries. Why can’t television owners start to peg the distribution of the salaries gradually from top to bottom without providing a big gap of salaries in the middle?

After all, most of the hard-working reporters are on the front lines. I remember that during the super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), nearly a dozen of reporters were killed in Ground Zero while the top anchors were safely ensconced in their air-conditioned peacock thrones, far-away from danger and yet were taking the cake of the salaries and were sharing the glories of the lowly reporters.

In print, many field reporters fall victims of vengeful corrupt politicians because of their small incomes.

I agree with Estrada’s bill providing for “professional exams annually” in order for reporters and anchors to be granted press accreditation by a “professional quasi-government and private industry” regulators, provided the exam focuses on their knowledge of the 1886 Berne Convention that has been affirmed by 117 countries, including the Philippines and the United States, affiliated with the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) convention in 1994.

Why should the test be given annually? Because copyright laws are dynamic, and  lower courts are making differing, varied interpretations.

If journalists become familiar with the nebulous rules of the international Copyright conventions, they could police themselves. They should know the intricacies of “fair use” principles, which have been fairly abused, thanks to the Internet.

Can journalists really tell the four factors to consider before invoking “fair use” to go around the International copyright law without exposing their media employers to lawsuits?

For the uninitiated, the fair use doctrine permits the unauthorized use of copyrighted material if it is used for certain “transformative” purposes such as criticism, commentary or parody.

Many journalists, including top editors, think that citing the source of the news story without seeking permission from the original author is “fair use.” It’s not so. Asking permission is one thing, getting the permission is another. Sometimes, a source may or may not demand payment to let a journalist quote his “transformative” information, so says copyright Law.

A friend of mine, a part-time photojournalist or citizen journalist, if you may, because of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, innocently forwarded a breaking news photo he took to another. The recipient of the photo posted it on his Facebook page. The photo ended up in the Internet and on hardcopy page of a newsmagazine. The newsmagazine editor, who did not realize the impact of picking up the photo without seeking permission of the photographer, abruptly resigned after being confronted with a prospective copyright lawsuit.

I hope that someday the dream of Senator Estrada to give “security of tenure, human conditions of work and a living wage” to lowly reporters will become a reality. I also hope that the salaries of reporters on both sides of the Pacific will be raised to the level of $70,000 a year. ([email protected])

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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