I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognise the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.
The Journalist’s Code of Ethics, No. 1
THE Inquirer steps up its campaign for the passage of the RH bill — this time, in a front-page “news” article.
Kristine Felisse Mangunay’s article “Salve’s life: A strong case for the RH bill” (5/26/11) is an account of the woes of a 37-year-old woman living with her 64-year-old partner: her eight children. Generously sprinkled with vivid descriptions of Salve’s destitution, the article appears as a heart-rending argument against those who oppose the passage of the RH bill. “RH services would have prevented Salve’s poverty,” the article seems to cry.
Okay. I shall not comment on the grand complexity that is the RH bill debate. For the sake of this blog entry, I shall only think aloud about how the Inquirer frames the entire RH bill row in Ms Mangunay’s article.
- Salve’s poverty seems to be simplistically viewed in light of a supposed absolute need for contraceptives. Why isn’t there any explicit mention about the need for good jobs and proper education for Salve and her partner? All the article says about those two factors of poverty alleviation is the fact that (1) the couple didn’t finish elementary school, (2) Salve is a plastics factory worker, and (3) her partner is a cotton candy vendor. The Inquirer seems to be more concerned about fertility per se rather than unemployment, lack of education, and corruption in government (government could have given relocated families such as Salve’s more decent shelters).
- Couldn’t the Inquirer — for the sake of inquiring, “balanced news”, and the natural duty of the press to know the other side of any issue — also feature strong arguments against the RH bill? The angling in Salve’s story is already cliche. And we’ve never seen the Inquirer write in depth about women who’ve had complications due to their use of IUDs, some contraceptive pills, and other commercial contraceptives. And we’ve hardly seen the Inquirer look at a family’s poverty as a consequence of, for example, administrative mismanagement on the part of government.
- Couldn’t the Inquirer be more accurate and impartial when talking about pro-life advocates? Ms Mangunay, who belongs to Iglesia ni Cristo, says that “President Benigno Aquino III himself has expressed support for the RH bill. But the Catholic Church and a number of lawmakers remain firmly opposed to the measure and have vowed to block its passage” [emphasis mine]. In fact, many individuals and groups from other religions are also opposed to the RH bill — precisely because they claim that many objections to the bill are not solely a “Catholic thing”, but are actually in the realm of universal ethics.
I commend, however, Ms Mangunay’s sincerity in exposing the daily problems of Salve and her family. Pity towards Salve’s family is certainly at the heart of the writer’s article. But it shouldn’t be enough. The feeling of pity should level up to charity, which becomes complete only when accompanied by the complete truth. Certainly there were aspects of reality which Ms Mangunay neglected when writing her apparently well-written work.