I HATE to bad-mouth my colleagues in my profession, but I was shocked by this episode. Has journalism these days become this bad?
One of the top business reporters in a major daily recently had the gall to seek an appointment with the owner of another broadsheet.
Without any shame at all, he acted as the PR of a luxury car importing firm. He offered the owner that in exchange for his newspaper never writing a derogatory article on the firm again, it would give the newspaper huge amounts of advertising revenues.
The owner’s newspaper had reported twice that Bureau of Internal Revenue officers during the administration of President Aquino, a luxury-car aficionado, had recommended to its chief Kim Henares that this auto firm be investigated for fraud for massively undervaluing its car’s prices in computing its revenues subject to tax. The recommendation was approved by the three higher levels of supervisors, including the deputy commissioner for the BIR’s legal and inspection group.
Strangely, BIR head Henares seemed to have just thrown the recommendation to the waste basket, and didn’t even ask her other officers to evaluate it. Either her officers felt patriotic that they leaked the document. Or maybe they felt bad that their boss was protecting a tax-evader, and suspected that Henares had trashed it for some financial reason, with them left out in the cold.
I wasn’t born yesterday, and I’ve heard so many rumors of reporters being paid to kill a story, or spin it in the way somebody who paid them wanted. Many PR professionals reportedly come by their huge incomes simply due to the network of reporters under their payroll—paid through their ATMs!
Such a network requires years to build up, so that members would be trusted not to squeal on such arrangements. Press tycoons are partly to blame here as reporters’ wages have been so depressed through the years.
I can understand that: That is the way of the world.
But this recent episode involving the car importer shocked me.
How could a reporter represent a “besieged” so to speak company and ask the owner of another newspaper for his publication never again to print anything derogatory about the car firm, in exchange for advertisements from the company? That is the job of a PR, not a reporter.
If a PR firm had done that, I would have just yawned at the report. I’m sure you’ve noticed that nearly all newspapers hardly report any bad news about PLDT/Smart and Globe, the biggest advertisers in the country. One huge property firm, a big advertiser, managed to get all newspapers not to report an accident in one of its sites that resulted in four of its employees getting killed.
Did this business reporter think just because he works for a bigger newspaper, he could implicitly threaten that if he is exposed, he would get back at the owner through the power of his paper? Did he think that newspaper can be so easily bought? If this reporter would have the gall to do such PR work, is his mercenary outlook the dominant culture in that newspaper?
And to think that this reporter is now considered to be one of the country’s top business reporters that he calls tycoons by their first names and is always invited to their events. And to think he has even worn several journalism awards, including an award for investigative reporting.
I am withholding his name, as I have contacted him to give his side (he acknowledged receipt of my email) and perhaps because of some sympathy for my colleagues in this underpaid, even dangerous profession in which you’ll lose friends.
I suggest he just quietly resign and become a full-time PR, or an employee in the PR section of some company that pays him a retainer. I hope he doesn’t end up cleaning the luxury cars being sold his client as his job.
If he prefers the big money for being a PR, then be a PR. There’s no shame in that. But he can’t be PR while at the same time be a newspaper’s purportedly top business reporter. You can’t have your f—–g cake and eat it too. You are ruining the profession I am in.
Letter from a French lawyer
I received the following e-mail from a French-Filipino member of the Paris bar, Emmanuel Pusung that commented on my column, “France does have presumed-guilty laws: We should have these, too” (September 4, 2017).
I am of Filipino origin and a dual citizen (French-Filipino). I have been a member of the Paris bar since 2014.
I entirely agree with your views regarding presumed-guilty laws in France. I am amazed how accurately you expressed the general opinion of majority of lawyers in France, especially those who are well-known in French criminal law.
When I heard President Duterte utter those statements about French laws, I was not surprised. I was even amazed that our President knows the general sentiment about presumption of guilt in France.
I knew the President was referring to fighting terrorism.
By all means, the presumption of innocence exists in: (1) the preliminary article of the “Code de la Procédure Pénale” ; (2) Déclaration des Droits de l’hommes et du Citoyen du 26 août 1789 ; and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).
But that is only in theory.
In real life here in France, a suspect is already seen by the police, the juged’instruction and the prosecutor (parquet) as a guilty person. We lawyers have to find evidence for his/her innocence. This is the general trend here for more than three decades. French lawyers criticize this regularly in media and in legal circles.
Moreover, I quote your articl : “Also, under the recent French anti-terrorist laws, a suspect involved in terrorism, drug trafficking or organized crime cases can be detained incommunicado, without being charged in court for as long as four days.”
Your affirmation is correct. We call that “garde à vuedérogatoire”. For that 96 hours, the suspect could not be charged, the suspect could not even see a lawyer. How can he/she be seen then as innocent?
Besides, the French legislature passes new laws every year regarding stricter measures in fighting terrorism. There is always a new law every year.
Lastly, France claims to be the “cradle of human rights” because of the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789. But, I have heard from several famous French criminal lawyers that that assertion is not really true.
Robert Badinter (famous lawyer, father of the French abolition of death sentence in 1981, former justice secretary, former president of Conseil Constitutionnel, former senator) famously said : “La France est le pays de la Déclaration des Droits de l’homme et du citoyen, mais la France n’est pas le pays des droits de l’homme et du citoyen”
(France is the country of the Declaration of Human Rights, but it is not the country of human rights.)
In my three years of practice, I tend to agree with them and upon my short experience, I tend to live that in my practice.
In legal practice, theory is one thing, practice is another thing.
That is why, I can only see one thing in (French UN human rights special rapporteur Agnes) Callamard’s (statements on the Philippines): hypocrisy.
Here are just my views regarding the accuracy of President Duterte’s claims regarding French criminal procedure.
Pardon my English as I am not well versed in this language.
In my column last Wednesday (“Thank God for Trillanes”) I identified Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th as a “former Navy captain”. That is wrong. Trillanes’ rank when he left the Navy was Navy Lieutenant Senior Grade.