Guild for freelance journalists proposed | Inquirer News

Guild for freelance journalists proposed

/ 05:20 AM November 21, 2022
Stock photo of a man’s back wearing jacket marked PRESS STORY: Guild for freelance journalists proposed stock photo

MANILA, Philippines — State-sponsored and employer abuse, insufficient compensation, and lack of social protection make it difficult for freelance journalists to survive in the Philippine media industry, according to a new study by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) that attempts to explore the vulnerabilities of the sector.

The NUJP study, done with the support of the International Federation of Journalists in 2021 and released over the weekend, looked into the state of freelance journalism in the Philippines and to determine the possibility of establishing a freelancer guild that could protect and lobby for their rights.


First, the study set out to determine the profile of an average Filipino freelancer. Based on the survey, the typical freelancer is male or male-identifying, around 20 to 25 years old, and mostly based in the Metro Manila.

An overwhelming majority (90 percent) usually work as contributors for multimedia/online outlets and also earn from work outside journalism (96 percent). This figure, the NUJP said, reveals how freelance journalism “was not enough to sustain their varying needs.”


Mental health concerns

Most freelancers also only receive anywhere between zero to 10 assignments in a month, which often pay less than P5,000 per gig. This brings their average wage to P15,000, just slightly above the minimum wage.

Over half of them find it hard to find regular assignments or gigs, which could be a factor why most of them seek employment outside journalism work.

Over half of the surveyed respondents also said they experienced mental health concerns while on assignment. Much of this, the study said, is driven by anxiety caused by their job insecurity, and anger and trauma from covering sensitive issues.

Their work also exposes them to verbal, mental, and emotional abuse, the study noted. Interestingly, most of the respondents pointed to the government as the leading perpetrator of abuse.

Many of the respondents said they experienced being humiliated in public by various government officials in public briefings and conferences, while at least a third said they experienced offline and online abuse from strangers because of their stories.

The study recommended that freelancers build their own guild that would help them have more protection and recourse as they collectively seek to “break down exploitative systems.”

“The demand is already there. And with the pandemic still going on in the Philippines, there seems to be no better time than now to pursue this endeavor,” the study said.

“A thriving community of journalists could only mean an improvement to the state of Philippine journalism, which, in turn, helps improve the lives of the public it serves,” it added.


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