Journalists Discuss Challenges in Covering Bangsamoro Autonomous Region
Journalists from various areas within and around the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) recently came together in Iligan City to discuss the challenges they face in reporting on the region. Organized by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the roundtable discussion took place on Thursday, January 25 and tackled issues such as unequal access to information, safety and security concerns, language barriers, and cultural sensitivities.
Local journalists, campus journalists, and journalism students from Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro, Marawi, and the province of Lanao del Sur shared their personal difficulties during the breakout session, emphasizing how these challenges can affect their work in information gathering and story production. Among the specific concerns raised were the alleged unfair treatment of media practitioners by sources, the fear of covering certain areas in the BARMM, and accessibility issues, particularly for freelance journalists who need to cover remote locations in the region.
The discussion also addressed the importance of understanding and respecting the differences among the ethnolinguistic groups in the region, with an educator from Mindanao State University-Marawi urging journalists to conduct thorough research to enable proper reporting to the people in the area.
The event, moderated by Rowena Paraan, training director of PCIJ, aimed to strengthen press freedom in the region and was part of a three-part series conducted by the organization. The executive director of PCIJ, Carmela Fonbuena, stressed the significant role of the media in informing the public on important issues, particularly as the 2025 parliamentary elections in the region approach. She emphasized the need to strengthen press freedom, recognizing that journalists “cannot practice investigative journalism if there is no media freedom.”
In addition to discussing the challenges and the role of the media in the region, Carolyn Arguillas, co-founder of MindaNews, provided a detailed discussion about the BARMM, its history, related laws, and possible angles that need to be followed up during parliamentary elections.
Shiela Mae Butlig, a journalist for Gold Star Daily, expressed gratitude for the insights gained from the discussion, highlighting its potential impact on her future stories involving the people of Bangsamoro. The roundtable was the latest effort by PCIJ to support investigative journalism and train journalists, providing a platform for media practitioners to address challenges and strengthen press freedom in the region.