MANILA—A coalition of of press freedom advocates urged candidates running in this year's elections to appear at forums and debates organized by the media.
The Freedom for Media Freedom for All (FMFA) group said that by doing so, candidates can help voters make informed decisions.
"As partners in protecting democracy, the media does not organize these events to demolish one candidate or highlight another but to help give a broader audience access to aspirants' plans and platforms as well as potential blindspots and problem areas that bets would do well to address," the FMFA said.
It pointed out that 300 newsrooms, practitioners, and members of the academe pledged last year to put voters first in their coverage of the elections, and forums and debates were part of that.
"While FMFA recognizes that candidates have the right to refuse to appear in forums and interviews, such refusal is a disservice to voters who want fuller discussions on how candidates plan to address issues and crises like the pandemic, the West Philippine Sea dispute and the economy," the group added.
The FMFA said it was concerned that the hesitation of candidates to appear before the press while still seeking election indicated an attitude toward media that they might adopt when already in power.
"Media has, in the past 6 years, faced officials who kept them at arm's length and hope that the next administration will have better appreciation for the press as a watchdog on government but also as an avenue for public criticism, conversation, and compromise," the FMFA said.
As of February 8, 2022 least 26 media groups and 116 individual media practitioners signed on the statement.
The call came after presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. did not appear at the Presidential Candidates' Forum organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) due to a conflict in schedule.
However, Marcos has appeared in other interviews such as the "Bakit Ikaw? The DZRH Presidential Job Interview", a one-on-one interview with celebrity talk-show host Boy Abunda, and another interview with veteran broadcaster Korina Sanchez.