The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has long since stood in solidarity with the media community and called for substantive legislation that will foster a healthy media environment, where workers are not only able to conduct their duty without fear of intimidation, violence, or reprisals, but also boost their collective morale.
CHR thus supports the passage, through a unanimous vote, of House Bill (HB) No. 454 or the Media Workers’ Welfare Act on its final reading at the House of Representatives on 21 November 2022. HB 454 seeks to provide regularization to media employees after six cumulative months of employment with adequate compensation. These include basic social security and welfare benefits as mandated by law, disability benefits, medical insurance, and death benefit for the family in case a media worker dies in the line of duty.
The Commission underlines that these provisions are in accordance with Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution which guarantees workers’ rights to “security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage.” Enhancing media workers’ welfare is a step toward strengthening the Fourth Pillar of our democracy.
CHR also acknowledges the bills’ measure on the responsibility of media entities in terms of possible gross negligence or malicious acts of block timers and media workers. We hope that this bolsters the culture of due diligence and truth-telling amid threats of disinformation.
At the same time, we echo the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s concluding recommendation to the Philippine government to “refrain from prosecuting and imprisoning journalists, media workers, and other civil society actors [through the use of criminal and civil legal actions] as a means of deterring or discouraging them from freely expressing their opinions.”
The Commission similarly looks forward to the proposed creation of a News Media Tripartite Council under the bill, which will serve as a platform for dialogue between media workers and their employers. Such will be an exercise of freedom of expression wherein parties can have the opportunity to discuss issues on labor concerns as well as the development of the media industry.
As we commend the immediate passage of HB 454, CHR equally calls for the enactment of support for community media and publications that may lack funding to implement the bill’s provisions. We ask that their position also be taken into consideration during the bicameral conference of the lower and upper Congress chambers.
Finally, CHR hopes that HB 454 may signal more advances for the state of press freedom, democracy, and human rights in the country. We look forward to a more open and consultative climate between the government and journalists in the country to better explore and appropriate responsive solutions to challenges faced in practice and on the ground. (Statement of the Commission on Human Rights welcoming the passage on third reading of House Bill No. 454 or the media workers’ security of tenure bill)