by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, #newmedia specialist
Caption: Marietta Le of Hungary, Tadeo Rodriguez of Mexico, and Malou Mangahas of the Philippines present in a discussion how to make weblogging more meaningful to society.
CEBU CITY, PHILIPPINES (Jan. 24, 2015) — Bloggers can certainly up the ante, in terms of reportage, by serving as fact checkers and information curators, and in the process develop ourselves as trusted go-to sources of data in upholding accountability and transparency.
The idea came up as a result of a discussion on “How to make freedom of information laws work (for everyone)” moderated by Global Voices blogger Ellery Biddle with Hungarian national Marietta Le, Mexican national Tadeo Rodriguez, and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism executive director Malou Mangahas for panelists. This happened on the first day of a two-day Global Voices Citizen Media Summit here.
While every government can readily post online data on contracts and other related government spending, such does not guarantee honesty, accuracy, and integrity most especially.
Mangahas called on digital media users, activists, immigrants, developers, creatives, and the like, to effect integrity of information via fact checking and proper curation. Data like figures, statistics, and assets, for example, according to Mangahas should translate to something sensible; information that can be understood and analyzed.
“We have to build that demand for right to information. But not just information that can readily be provided by government workers. We have to be able to decipher truth in every piece of information they provide online. We have the right to know right now, but we also have to make sure that what we know is accurate, therefore can be trusted,” Mangahas ascertained.
She said that the Philippines still has to see good record keeping by our government agencies. “We are to shore up numeracy among our people. But some really are just products of some talking heads. We have to understand the dynamics of government, how our budgets are being distributed, how taxpayers money is being fiddled. When we report, we put people’s lives at stake. Who will be there to stand up to truth?”
Global blogging communities are therefore encouraged to stand up to the cause of transparency and accountability. By standing up, it entails the eagerness to collaborate and cross-promote.
Marietta Le mentioned, in her presentation, how social media expression helped encourage government response to the question “on the necessity of spending for three fighter jets during a football stadium inauguration.”
Le pointed out that 4,000 requests were made via electronic mail to the national government of Hungary questioning how their obviously football fanatic President could have requested budget for three fighter jets.
The answer came upon the pressure caused by strong online expression and public opinion against the move purportedly wasting government funds. The Ministry of Defense had admitted to accommodating a “verbal request” for fighter jets as part of a regular drill.
“Such doesn’t make sense actually. It is only in Hungary that you can order orally fighter jets. The government has a ready answer as expected. However, social media activism raised a good point there. Its presence felt, and so gives the government the jolt,” Le expressed.
Meanwhile, Tadeo Rodriguez shared sentiments in Philippine political scenarios as the culture reflects that of home, Mexico. Like in the Philippines, patronage politics is also strong in Mexico and so it is challenging to track campaign spending, wealth of public officials, land records, conditional cash transfers. “On top of the challenge is to ensure that one’s rights online will also be protected offline,” he shared, reiterating that money politics also thrives online.
Further, Robin Moroney of Google Philippines, in his presentation, guided citizen media practitioners that we can augment reporting by serving as “trusted go-to sources” ourselves.
“At first glance, bloggers might not really have real advantage over legacy media practitioners. But if you can help correct and establish veracity of facts, you can make data journalism get commodified,” he pointed out.
“Curate and own the beat. Become reliable sources yourselves of information that can be trusted,” Moroney further encouraged.
Such call has given the local blogger-participants an idea to begin a curation on a 2016 polls for comparative purposes. Rechecking of data to that of Comelec tabulation can be optimized using Google tools.###