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Watchdog Journalism

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Watchdog Journalism: Investigative Reporting in Southeast Asia Watchdog Journalism, is a training video produced by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that talks about how the Investigative Journalism helped the citizens of Southeast Asian countries to be aware on the wrongdoings of the public officials. It presented cases in Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia wherein the media served as a tool for unraveling anomalous act in the government. Through this film, I was able to learn the different techniques on investigating. I learned that you should not limit your research on what is presented to you, journalists should dig deeper. In the Philippines, when former President Joseph Estrada was found guilty of bribery, graft and corrupt practices and plunder, it was the PCIJ with the help of media and some of their interns who raised the public’s awareness, on the issue that resulted to rallies. There are different documents where you can track down an official’s assets and liabilities. But according to Vinia Datinguinoo, Research Head of PCIJ, on Estrada’s case, he was not declaring everything he owned.

They looked at Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the corporations where Estrada is a shareholder of. If they just settled on the documents with doubtful information, they would have never discovered all of Estrada’s mansions and properties. As what Heru Hendratmoko, Director/Producer of 68H said “see what happened and not just rely on what the government says.” Second is, according to Vinia Datinguinoo “In dealing with documents and people make sure that you get collaboration.” Unraveling an official’s wrongdoing is really a difficult task to do because these are very well thought out plan and with all the conspiracy that officials have, it will be tricky to obtain the information that you are looking for. Therefore, a person who wants to investigate of things like these should be able to have a solid teamwork among his members. They would have to focus on their strengths. Just like what Hermien Y. Kleden, Managing Editor of Tempo said “We always work as a team. On your own you can’t do anything.”

The third thing I learned from the film was you can always look for patterns. Check whether on the information that you have gathered, there lies a pattern that would lead you to something bigger. The PCIJ made a database to have a better view and more organized way on studying Estrada’s case. Through the database, they saw a series of wrongdoings which made the case stronger than ever. According to Yvonne Chua, Training Director of PCIJ, “don’t just analyze the data.” Indeed, they not only analyze the data but they were able to unleash a series of other crimes committed by the administration against the people of the Philippines. This was the same case on Thailand, the story started when a shocking news went out that Thaksin and his wife is transferred $5 Billion worth of shares in Shin Corporation. “But as we dug deep we became suspicious. We learned that he had been transferring his shares to British Virgin Islands.” Kleden said that someone asked her “Why are you doing this? You risk your life, you have low salary.”

And she replied “You have to do it anyway, it’s your job, you’re a journalist.” I realized that no matter how risky it is to get yourself involved in cases of the most powerful people in the country, a journalist should always remember that if he/she did not do their responsibility to expose stories like corruption then people will always live in a country full of lies and will always comply with the dirty business that everyone will be doing. Without investigative journalism, people will not have courage to fight for what is righteous. Lastly, I learned that no matter how one person hides his deepest and darkest secrets, it will eventually come out. Of all the officials mentioned during the film, they all have done different ways to hide their wrongdoings, but they all ended up being caught because there are still people who cares about the country. The function of the media being a watchdog of the society truly helps countries who suffer from the graft and corrupt practices of the officials. According to Sheila Coronel Executive Director of PCIJ, “Exposes can make people more aware and also enrage them and propel them to act.” As citizens see the graft and corrupt practices being flashed before them, it creates an impact to them that makes them want to do something about it.

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