By ANDREW MANGIBIN
BAGUIO CITY – Baguio journalists defended their stories on the city’s Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation against the tirade of the local hospitality and tourism industry on alleged “out-of-context” reportage of the pandemic.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet Chapter underscored their commitment in informing the city of its handling of the pandemic. They said their responsibility is to provide relevant information to aid the public in making their decisions in and around dealing with the pandemic reported “out-of-context”.
The group was responding to a joint statement by the Baguio Tourism Council (BTC) and the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Baguio (HRAB). Signed by BTC Chair Gladys Vergara and HRAB president Anthony De Leon, the statement claimed that reportage on the city being high-risk lacks context.
The group accused the media of sensationalizing the situation. They likewise implied that journalists who wrote the stories failed to do “due diligence.”
The hospitality industry’s statement raised concerns of the reportage of a survey by OCTA, identifying Baguio as a high-risk city for COVID-19 infection. Local and national news outfits heavily covered the survey, conducted three weeks ago. This was around the time of mass outbreaks in Baguio barangays with high population density.
BTC and HRAB also appealed for collaboration between the tourism industry and the media, while addressing their frustrations on media’s coverage of the pandemic’s handling.
NUJP-Baguio-Benguet recognized the concerns of the tourism sector and said they are open collaborate for the common good. However, they maintained that they were not mouthpieces for particular sectors and were not obliged to please anybody.
Recognizing the value of the city’s tourism industry, the press pointed out their coverage of the sector’s concerns amid the restrictions imposed upon it by COVID-19. This is in response to an “unfair” interpretation the tourism sector contends they are seeing through reportage.
They also dismissed the claims by the hospitality industry regarding context, saying that the city’s media practitioners cited their sources. The articles, the press contends, also “contained considerations and recommendations” for agencies dealing with the pandemic.
NUJP-BB also concurred with policy research institutions, like OCTA, regarding the city’s high-risk status. They said that despite the city’s expanded mass testing and contact tracing efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic, COVID-19 infections continue to rise among Baguio citizens, as evidenced by their own reportage throughout the year.
The group urged the tourism industry to be equally open to research and reports on the pandemic itself, and adopt measures working in and around these findings.