Filipino journalists in Toronto, decrying the substandard contents of many Filipino newspapers in Canada, organized themselves into a union to improve the local situation.
Stung by a proliferation of fake and incompetent media practitioners in the local newspaper industry, concerned Filipino journalists formed themselves into a union to work for standardized pay and to upgrade their technical skills.
There are at least 15 entertainment-oriented tabloids in Toronto's Filipino community of 250,000, most of them heavily dependent on press releases and reprints from publications in the Philippines.
Some of the publishers and editors have no background in journalism and the ability to write articles themselves. They often hire non-journalists for a pittance to edit and design their publications for them, according to journalists interviewed for this story.
"You read about entertainment. You read about the good news, the bad news in the Philippines; the good news and the bad news in Canada. You read all about them . . . but how much of the content comes from home-grown writers? Not even two percent," says Butch Galicia, editor of the monthly English-language Libreto newspaper in Toronto.
Filipino journalists Tenny Soriano and Butch Galicia at the launching of NUJP-Canada in High Park on Saturday, July 23, 2011.
The continuing slide of local journalism into disrepute is exacerbated by a woeful lack of trained and schooled journalists, a problem made apparent by the dominance of content that highlights Philippine and Canadian entertainment.
"The news that you read in the papers only tells you the alleluias of all organizations, including birthdays, weddings and all the sort," Galicia added.
The newly-formed National Union of Journalists of the Philippines - Canada hopes to improve the local situation.
"Our focus is on the promotion of press freedom and to work for the benefit and welfare of Filipino media practitioners in Canada and the Philippines," says Edwin Mercurio, NUJP-Canada chair.
A similar group exists in the Philippines but NUJP-Canada is the first nationally-organized union of veteran Filipino-Canadian journalists, writers, photographers and artists in North America.
Mercurio said NUJP-Canada recognizes the importance of training local media practitioners and volunteers to maintain a strong pool of talents, thus the planned Editors Weekend Trainings beginning this year.
"One of our main goals is to assist media practitioners in their just demands to be treated with dignity and respect; just compensation for their hours of work; social, health and other benefits," Mercurio stresses at the small gathering on Saturday (July 23, 2011) in High Park formally launching NUJP-Canada.
The officers and members of NUJP-Canada and their families and friends at the launching of NUJP-Canada on Saturday in High Park.
The group also expressed alarm at what it calls "the continued killings of media practitioners in the Philippines and the prevailing culture of impunity".
The Philippines holds the global distinction of having the highest number of journalists killed in one day with the massacre of 32 media persons in Maguindanao province in Southern Philippines in November 2009. Twenty-five other civilians were also killed on that same day.
"This is one of the major reasons we are compelled to act and organized this union of journalists in Canada, as a symbol of our solid and continuing support for our beleaguered colleagues in the Philippines," explains Mercurio.
He said the Philippines is considered the most dangerous country in the world for practising journalists.