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Bloggers need a collective set of ethical standards

 I don’t know with the other bloggers especially those that covered Ferdinand Marcos Jr during the campaign but I set my own journalistic standards and ethics.

Please. Not all bloggers are the same just as some journalists are not always credible. Bloggers are in the news again.Incoming press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, a vlogger and blogger said that the accreditation of vloggers to allow them to attend Malacañang briefings or press conferences of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.  will be a priority of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) under her leadership. The criticisms have started once again.

This tweet is offensive to bloggers who fact check and share the truth. Personally , my comfort zone is twitter and blogging but I went out of the box to share facts on TikTok and YouTube because I am part of #FactsFirstPH. Criticisms of bloggers have been there since we became a threat to traditional journalists. It started in 2008 when Brian Gorrel wrote an explosive post about the Manila’s “Gucci gang”. What about the big bad blogger in 2011? In 2017,  Rappler raised the issue of the 14 bloggers getting accredited at the ASEAN 50th celebration , Then there was this Senate hearing on Fake News which was unfair to bloggers by putting the  blogging community in a bad light and focusing on the worst practices of the two partisan camps.

READ: What is all this ado about bloggers at #ASEAN2017?

Recently, a statement from an esteemed journalist shows his limited understanding of bloggers, Though it is true that SOME bloggers especially those that sow disinformation don’t understand the “system of checks to ensure that information disseminated is truthful”, Vergel Santos should not make a blanket statement.  Let me reiterate my stand on blogger accreditation .

 

On June 12, 2016, I received a message from incoming Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, that he is “looking at opening the malacanang press office to credible bloggers” and if I could bring a few bloggers to exploratory talks.  I was pleasantly surprised that Sec Martin reached out to bloggers. In the past administration, I was the one who had to send letters, and follow-ups , I prefer events-based accreditation and not daily coverage at the Malacanang Palace.  It is more important that the government listen to citizens and open avenues to engage and get feedback. If the government accepts my request to be accredited in some events that is meaningful to my advocacy, then it is all good.

READ:My thoughts on blogger accreditation

READ: BlogWatch gets media accreditation for inauguration

The exploratory talks actually happened. I even got to see a draft on the “Social media blogger accreditation”.Trixie Angeles was even there for the initial discussion. The accreditation never happened because there was resistance from the Malacanang Press Corps.

DRAFT:Interim social media blogger accreditation

What is my stand in this latest drama?

Bloggers are not journalists 

Bloggers are not journalists but it doesn’t mean I am not accountable for my writings. As a blogger (and because my husband is a lawyer), I am aware of the libel laws even before the CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012 . I respect people’s privacy even before the effectivity of the Data Privacy Act.  It’s just following the norms which govern ordinary human relations. If I wouldn’t say it to that person over a cup of coffee, I don’t post it. The best defense against anything that would curtail our freedom of expression, be it online or offline, is to express ourselves in words and deeds that are thoughtful, truthful and honest.

READ: Citizen engagement and Social Media Policy Town Hall

READ: Citizen Engagement: A mission possible?

READ: The President and social media

That is why, bloggers should know the relevant laws on Data Privacy Act of 2012 or the Republic Act No. 10173; The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act No. 10175 ; Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009 or Republic Act 9995

´Bloggers and Social Media Users as Personal Information Processors

´Bloggers and Social Media Users Obligation to Respect and Accountability on the Privacy of Others

´Bloggers and Social Media Users on Hacking, Anonymous Comments and Publishing

´Libel issues concerning bloggers and social media users

´Copyright Issues vs. Online Content

Bloggers are, like it or not, part of the world at large. They are not immune from political and societal forces. Neither are they exempt from the norms which govern ordinary human relations. Shouldn’t bloggers abide by the same high standards to which they hold others?  You are who you appear to be. Bloggers should do their best to rely on accountable sources. If those sources were/are not accurate, admit it. Disagree without being disagreeable. I believe in always staying on the higher ground without resulting to name calling. If it is incendiary, don’t post it. Respect the privacy of the people you write about especially their personal information. Just because personal information is in the public domain, there is no implication much less a grant of consent to process such publicly available data.

Though I believe in dissenting views, I enforce a commentary policy where “I reserve the right to remove comments, words or phrases that are defamatory, abusive, incite hatred and advertise an email address or commercial services or just plain spammy. I also reserve the right to remove posts that to my opinion are off-topic, irrelevant, ad-hominem, personal attacks and or just plain rude.”

Anyone with a platform and a voice has a responsibility to their readers, to the blogging community, to the brands they work with, and to the rest of the world. As a public personality, your words and actions carry more weight than you realize. Like it or not, you have to be your best self. You owe it to your brand partners to be a good representative who embodies their values.

A set of standards?

While I do agree with a collective set of ethical standards, I am not convinced on the establishment of a national blogging organization. Bloggers are so diverse and may not want to belong to one big group for one reason or another. A blogger told me “if bloggers in the Philippines feel that this is necessary given the circumstances (i.e. for political bloggers to differentiate themselves from rabid Duterte supporters), then by all means they should. However, a national blogging association is not something I want to be a formal member of, nor would I want it to define my identity as a (semi-retired?) blogger.” She added that “just because you have a blog, and I have a blog, doesn’t mean we stand for the same things. I would not want to be part of some organization and be loosely associated with anyone who held very divergent political and moral beliefs from mine”

You are essentially what you write and will be judged accordingly by your readers, the blog’s community. If you get accredited by Malacanang, you will have an even larger audience. Setting ethical standards for your blog is needed if you want to be blogger in the long haul. I don’t know with the other bloggers especially those that covered Marcos Jr during the campaign but I set my own journalistic standards and ethics. As a blogger, I don’t share the problems faced by editorial policies of a media outfit. I set my editorial policy culled from the best practices of the Philippine Press Council Code of Ethics on Covering Elections.

1. Pay your way
2. Do not get cash or gifts in kind from politicians and political parties
3. Do not moonlight with political parties
4. Beware of surveys
5. Declare conflicts of interest
6. Draw the link between your journalism and your money-making ventures
7. Do not abuse and misuse your privileges as journalist

Along the way, I refined my approach and added transparency and correction policies which is clearly defined here on blogwatch.tv However, as an advocate for truth, justice and freedom, I am NOT neutral. I cite this disclosure in each of my articles on BlogWatch.

For the accreditation of bloggers to cover the Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.,  a set of ethical standards should first be deliberated and agreed upon . This could be deliberated in a conference or summit, then the rest can follow. Or the incoming Press Secretary can continue on with the discussion on guidelines set by the PCOO on blogger accreditation.

First in the agenda, No to disinformation. Even if the President himself issued news that is not based on facts, everything must be fact-checked. Lies should be debunked.

 

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BlogWatch began in November 2009 as a group of independent-minded bloggers and social media users helping with voter education. It has since evolved into a group of citizen advocates who engage government and the private sector, online and offline, for social good.

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BlogWatch receives the “Best Story” Award for the First Data Journalism PH 2015 from the Open Knowledge Foundation and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism  for their story on “Aid Monitoring: Citizens’ Initial Efforts in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda” . Forbes Philippines also received the same award.

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