Vloggers may soon cover Malacañang too

Alexis Romero, Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Vloggers may soon cover Malacañang too
President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. speaks to UniTEam Supporters in Cavite onMarch 22, 2022. The transition team of Marcos Jr. is looking to accredit vloggers to cover presidential activities of the next administration
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 6:32 p.m.) — Reporters of mainstream media outlets may soon find themselves in the company of vloggers in Malacañang as the incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is looking to accredit them as well to cover the presidential palace.

Incoming Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles told a briefing over state-run People’s Television that they, at the Presidential Communications Operations Office, are “pushing for accreditation of vloggers to be invited to some of the briefings” especially those conducted by Marcos himself.

"That is one of the priorities we formulated for the incoming PCOO. We’re also looking at things like opening up discourse and looking at issues of disinformation that seem to be a hot-button topic nowadays," Angeles said.

Vloggers, with multi-phone camera setups, are among those who have been trailing, along with journalists, the UniTeam campaign sorties. On some occasions, these vloggers were given greater access to Marcos.

Angeles herself is a lawyer turned vlogger before Marcos picked her to head the PCOO under his administration.

This is not the first time that the administration of a sitting president will try to accredit vloggers and other social media personalities.

In 2017, the PCOO under President Rodrigo Duterte also announced that it will allow bloggers and social media practitioners to cover events attended by the chief executive. All it took then was for them to be at least 18 years old and have at least 5,000 followers on their social media platforms.

This did not sit well with some journalists covering Malacañang, who grilled PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan over the policy. 

“Hindi ba binabalahura iyong institution na knowing presidential, ano ‘to, Palace, tapos kung sinu-sino na lang ang ano iyong i-a-accredit natin dito?” Bandera reporter Bella Cariaso asked in an August 2017 presser.

(Isn’t the institution being bastardized knowing this is a presidential palace and then you’re just accrediting just about anyone here?)

Incoming officials of the Marcos administration have been promising better access to media, but action on this vow has been wanting as they have ignored critical questions and excluded, albeit supposedly unintentionally, outlets from the president-elect’s first briefing after his proclamation.

Angeles was also non-committal as to whether the ban on Rappler reporters from entering Malacañang and getting close to the president, which was imposed by the Duterte administration, will continue.

“I think we’ll have to look at the existing policy first and make a decision later on as to how appropriate they are for the current times,” she said.

'Policy might benefit pro-Marcos vloggers'

A check at the PCOO Media Accreditations and Relations Office revealed that no social media practitioner has applied for accreditation to cover Palace events. However, there were internet personalities that were allowed to cover some of Duterte's foreign trips and international summits hosted by the Philippines, including the 2017 Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit.

The Malacañang Press Corps, a group of mainstream media journalists accredited to cover the president, said they "will defer comment on the matter until the details of the proposed policy are threshed out by the incoming PCOO leadership."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expressed concern that the policy might benefit pro-Marcos vloggers.

"Democratizing access to government by way of vloggers is commendable in principle, but must be viewed in the context that the vloggers who may likely benefit from this access would be the pro-Marcos vloggers, as was the case during the campaign," the NUJP said in a statement.

"Wider access is good, but must not be at the expense of institutional media, which has been sidelined during the campaign as false information spread rapidly online, many of which have been traced to the same network," it added.

The NUJP said the space for trained, professional journalists providing vetted information "continues to shrink."

"If the incoming Marcos administration is sincere in upholding transparency and press freedom, it would ensure that this space is protected," the group said.

The NUJP said the proposal to accredit vloggers also raises questions of independence and accountability.

"Will the PCOO, which will essentially vouch for the vloggers and influencers it accredits, also be accountable for the content that they might release? Would vlogger access be dependent on whether the content is favorable to the incoming administration or not?" the group said.

"The NUJP remains wary of this concept and will be vigilant of any policy that may lead to discrediting the media," it added. — with a report from Kristine Joy Patag

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