Media reporting and migration policy

Published May 28, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid

For several decades, Philippine migration policy had focused on exporting labor. Then it shifted to the protection of overseas workers. Recently, with the creation of a Department of Migrant Workers, migration policy will have to address issues such as red tape, recruitment, regulatory, and repatriation as well as provide a 24/7 Emergency Response and Acton Unit, media and social media monitoring centers that would respond to emergency needs of OFWs, migrant Filipinos, and their families. The department will coordinate with the Department of Justice and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to “investigate, initiate, sue, pursue, and help prosecute “cases involving illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

It will merge seven agencies involved with OFWs and will have a budget of at least ₱1.109 billion. With five percent of the total number of migrants worldwide, our country is the seventh in terms of total population.

Harvard-trained Susan Ople, incoming secretary of the department, will have a lot on her plate and since she has chalked up an impressive record in her work with our labor sector, I am sure she will be able to provide a creative response to these challenges.

In its May 2021 Assessment on Returned Overseas Filipino Workers, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) cited needs of migrant workers as a consequence of Covid-19 which resulted in a 75 percent reduction in deployment of OFWs in 2020. This constitutes its lowest deployment number in three decades. The number of returning OFWs reached nearly 800,000 by December 2020. Its Impact Assessment report is based on interviews with 8,000 returned OFWs. The 67 percent who decided to return was due to Covid-19. A significant 83 percent of OFWs ended up being unemployed for a period of three months.

The pandemic placed into sharper focus gaps in migration governance notably migrant workers’ protection during crisis – in reintegration, unemployment that resulted in drop in income, wide gaps in policies, and implementation of laws, drop in deployment rate, and damaged relationship of OFW families with their children.

Another priority area recommended is for the government to engage with the UN Committee on International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Commission on Human Rights, and the Center for Migrant Advocacy which had earlier conducted initial consultations on OFWs’ access to information, awareness of government policies on migration, gender sensitivity, and online connectivity.

A recent partnership between the International Labor Organization and the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication is the integration of labor migration issues into higher education’s bachelor’s level curricula. A series of activities which included collaboration among higher education institutions offering journalism and communication in the preparation of a curriculum is expected to address the information needs of labor migration. The partner institutions are represented by Hussein Macarambon, ILO national project coordinator, and Ann Lourdes L. Lopez, AIJC senior director.

Initiatives in curriculum development will find these newsroom challenges presented by a webinar participant useful. They include the following observations:
Newsroom challenges:

• “Breaking” news culture due to social media pressures on newsrooms to focus on quick updates.
• Lack of manpower for in-depth reporting.
• Need to shift from stories of abuse to stories of success.
• Availability of continuing education for journalists (grants, fellowships).
• Growing pool of freelancers.
• More formats on digital content, e.g., podcasts etc.
• Need to address contradictory policies/views of government, and advocates.
A paradigm shift in news reporting to include:
• Explanatory journalism.
• Talking about solutions – to go beyond looking at “what happened” and “why” to “what next?” and “how have these problems been tackled in other parts of the world?”
• Looks at success stories and how interventions can be beneficial, and be scaled.

In this age of disinformation and fake news, the importance of responsible journalism cannot be overemphasized. Thus, we hope that the Department of Migrant Workers would give priority to the design of a new journalism that focuses on going “behind,” and “beyond” the story and the new journalism ethics for our times.

My e-mail: [email protected]