The Commission on Human Rights said Friday that security of tenure for media practitioners should be guaranteed and their labor rights must be ensured in the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
In a statement, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the Commission welcomes the proposed Senate Bill No. 1820 or “Media Workers’ Welfare Act” filed by Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto.
De Guia explained that the legislative measure is aimed at creating a basic compensation scheme to include adequate compensation for hazardous media coverages and guarantees the security of tenure for all media workers.
The proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment to establish a News Media Tripartite Council which will cater to the concerns of media stakeholders.
The measure would also ensure that the labor rights of media workers are being protected, she added.
“The current health pandemic emphasizes the importance of a free media in ensuring the dessimination of timely and factual information to help educate the Filipino citizenry on the health impacts of the Covid-19 and the ways to prevent its transmission,” she said.
De Guia said the adverse economic effects brought about by the pandemic have resulted in the retrenchment policies implemented by various media entities and franchise holders and left numerous media professionals with no income and support system to deal with the negative economic effects of the prevailing health crisis.
“This problem is compounded by a massive layoff of media workers by media entities that practice unfair labor practices that mislabel longtime employees as contractual employees—denying them employee-employer relationship and benefits despite multiple years of successive contract renewals indicating the desirability and necessity of the practitioner’s work,” she said.
De Guia, meanwhile, noted that ensuring the protection and just compensation of media practitioners is likewise essential in protecting the freedom of expression and the right of individuals to access information.
“Denying media workers the fair compensation and benefits not only violates labor laws but also makes journalists vulnerable to certain financial obligations that may affect the objectivity of their news reports,” she said.
In ensuring the protection of labor rights and a free press, de Guia said the Commission continues to reiterate its support for the protection and promotion of the rights of media workers.
“Together let us remember that in line with our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and information the protection of our media workers is necessary to ensure a free and fair media,” she added.
In a related development, the CHR urged the Duterte administration to look into the killing of an online show host in Sorsogon City.
Speaking for the CHR, De Guia has denounced the killing of Balangibog TV online show host — Robert Bercasio last Sept. 14.
De Guia said the killing illustrated the growing trend of harassment and violence perpetrated against media workers.
The agency has sent its Regional Office 5 to investigate the incident .
The Commission called on the government to act on the case, attain justice for the victim’s family, and to take further steps ensure the safety of the journalists and media workers.
“The freedom of expression which includes the freedom of the press is a constitutionally protected right which guarantees the right of individuals to publish or utter freely without previous restraint,” De Guia said.
“It is the basic foundation of a democratic country and free media. The continuing harassment and killings of media professional is concerning as it hampers the publication of information depriving the Filipino citizenry of access to much-needed information while creating a continuing culture of impunity,” she added.
Bercasio was aboard his scooter when he was gunned down by riding-in-tandem suspects in Barangay Cabid-an.