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CHR welcomes approval of Media Workers’ Welfare Act

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomes the approval of the proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act by the Committee on Labor and Employment at the House of Representatives. 

Originally filed in the 18th Congress, the proposed bill is re-filed in the current 19th Congress as House Bill (HB) No. 454, in consolidation with House Bills Nos. 304, 1924, 2487 and 2801. 

Introduced by representatives Jeffrey Soriano, Eric Yap, Paolo Duterte, Jocelyn Tulfo, and Ralph Tulfo, the consolidated bill seeks to enhance the protection, security, and benefits of media workers towards improving their socio-economic and overall well-being. 

Among the key features of the proposed measure are entitlements to overtime pay, night shift premiums, and wage that should not be below the minimum salary in their respective region. When covering dangerous assignments and areas, they should also be given hazard pay and provided with basic safety gear fit for the situation.

The right to security of tenure is also covered by HB No. 454 as it provides that media workers shall be deemed regular employees after six months of employment. Media workers shall also have social security coverage and shall be granted with additional mandatory benefits, such as death benefit, disability benefit, and medical insurance. 

“The CHR commends the intention of the said bill to improve the welfare and work conditions of media workers who courageously seek and report the truth despite the risks. Upholding the dignity and labor rights of media workers is essential to the flourishing of press freedom while also enhancing the people’s right to timely and accurate information,” CHR Executive Director Atty. Jacqueline Ann De Guia said.

De Guia added that given the multitude of threats and attacks in recent years that undermine the free press, the proposed measure can help boost the morale of media workers and may encourage more young people to pursue a career in this field. 

“While the CHR lauds the bill’s ideals, we equally hope the measure also contemplates support that can be rendered for small media companies and community newspapers that do not have the capacity to provide full benefits and may resort to closure instead,” she said.

The CHR, De Guia said, continues to actively work for media protection through its helpdesks, hotlines, and social media channels as among the media and public safety mechanisms that respond to attacks on the press and free expression. In 2018, CHR has also issued a resolution formalizing the creation of a Task Force on Media-Related Extrajudicial Killings to monitor and investigate media attacks. Partnerships and joint activities have also been conducted with media groups to better protect and promote the rights and freedoms of journalists. 

“The Commission continues to call for support in defense of free press. We continue to urge the government and the public to acknowledge and defend the role of media in providing fair and accurate information that contributes to a durable democracy that we all deserve and aspire,” she said.