At a luncheon hosted by the Philippine embassy in Oslo last Thursday, September 5, the journalists had a chat with Afghan human rights activist and editor of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar on the situation of media workers in the Philippines. 

media-literacy

Pinoy journalists find Norwegian polls ‘refreshing’

By Macel Ingles, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
(L-R) Consul Lenna De Dios-Sison, Consul Louella Duarte, Che de los Reyes(PCIJ), Amb. Bayani Mercado (Norway), Hatef Mokhtar Editor in  chief  (The Oslo Times), Macel Ingles (ABS-CBN Europe), (Paulnezer Tadle Lontua (The Sibugay Headlines), Carolyn Arguillas (MIndaNews), Nonoy Espina (Interaksyon.com) and back, Benjamin Strandquist (Norwegian embassy staff). Picture taken at the luncheon for the visiting journalists hosted by the Philippine Embassy in Oslo.

OSLO – Four Filipino journalists found the conduct of the Norwegian parliamentary elections in Norway “refreshing”, saying that based on their impressions, the focus of campaigning is more on issues than personalities.

The journalists were part of a delegation, composed of Carolyn Arguillas of MindaNews, Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina of Interaksyon.com, Che de los Reyes of PCIJ and Paulnezer Tadle Lontua of The Sibugay Headlines, who arrived in Oslo last September 1.

They also said elections in Norway are “kakaiba” after they saw the array of booths of political parties along the city’s main street, Karl Johan.

PCIJ’s De Los Reyes pointed out that one can see the political commitment of party supporters in those booths who try to woo voters by giving out party brochures and engaging passerby in political discussions.

“Hindi siya fiesta like the Philippines, at developed yung voter awareness,” Arguillas told ABS-CBN Europe.

Lontua added that he sees the election in Norway as “peaceful, organized and an exercise in freedom of expression based on the debates being conducted at the city square and the people watch these debates.”

But the journalists expressed frustration over the absence of English newspapers in the city making it hard for them to follow the issues being discussed in the elections. (There are no English language dailies in Norway and news in English are only recently available through online sites.)

Campus elections

However, they also observed that the election seems like a campus election in scale compared to national elections in the Philippines. The delegation visited a polling place for absentee voting (pre-election voting) for those who want to vote before the parliamentary elections on September 9.

Polling places are usually low key affairs with only a few voting assistants manning a long table. A couple of makeshift voting booths are set up in a corner with rows of party ballot slips available for voters to fill up and drop in ballot boxes after verifying their identification with the voting assistants.

Media killings

At a luncheon hosted by the Philippine embassy in Oslo last Thursday, September 5, the journalists had a chat with Afghan human rights activist and editor of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar on the situation of media workers in the Philippines.

Espina, who is also a board direction of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), told Mukhtar that the media killings are still a problem in the Philippines and that most of these cases involved local officials who are affected by the journalists’ exposes on crime and corruption.

“In fact”, he said, “the week before we left for Norway, two of our media colleagues had been killed by still unknown assailants.”

According to a statement of the NUJP published on their website, newspaper editor Vergel Bico of Bandera Pilipino was killed by unidentified gunmen last September 4 in Calapan City, while local radio commentator Fernando Solijon of DxLS Love Radio was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Iligan City last August 29. The statement also said the murder of Bico is the 17th killed under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III and the 158th victim of media killing from 1986.

Espina also rued the lack of investigation of media killings in the Philippines and said that “while there is no official policy on the national government to kill journalists, we know for a fact that a lot of state security forces are involved in the killings.”

He also criticized the putting of the names of journalists in “Order of Battle” lists by the Philippine military and the police, a distinction he said is a virtual death warrant for those who are in the list.

Norwegian media

The journalists also praised media freedom in Norway saying that the press has a lot of support from the government citing the press state subsidy to media companies. They also learned that the Norwegian Journalist Union is not seen as an “enemy” but as a “partner” by Norwegian media companies.

However, they say that being a journalist in Norway may be “boring” and not as exciting or even a “thriller” compared to the Philippines where a lot of killings and major stories are unfolding every day.

They also expressed sadness when informed that despite the support of government, print media is on the decline in the country and is facing tough competition from online sites. They were told that some journalists are voluntarily resigning from the country’s major broadsheet Aftenposten after the paper admitted that they can no longer afford to pay their salaries.

Aside from Aftenposten, the visiting journalists also had a chance to visit the national broadcasting station, NRK and the Oslo University College’s Journalism department.

Sightseeing

All is not work for them though as they also got to visit the city’s major attractions such as the Vigeland Park in Frogner, Mathallen where they got to sample the seafood cuisine prepared by Chef Jostein Medhus of the Culinary Academy upon the invitation of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

They also visited the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, one of the first ever ski designer built and the only steel ski jump in the World and took time to drop by the Nobel Peace Prize center where they were given an introduction to the history of the Nobel Prize.

Asked how they found Norway on their first visit, the journalists found the Oslo, very “deafening” in silence, clean but cold even if they were told that they are lucky to have experienced the country’s best summer in four years.

They also found the Norwegians “friendly, nice and very helpful” and are eager to volunteer information to them when they ask questions.

According to the Norwegian Embassy in Manila, the journalist delegation that visited Oslo this month is the second group of journalists to have been invited by the embassy to visit the country.

It also said the program aims to send a delegation of Filipino journalists to Norway once every year to contribute to developing increase awareness of Philippine-Norwegian relations. Also, it is hoped that the visit would be an opportunity for journalists to exchange experiences with other journalists (Norwegian and Filipino) and learn how the media operates in a country that is very different from the Philippines.

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