Sa makabagong panahon ng internet, facebook, twitter, at international news media coverage, patuloy ba nating maikukubli ang katotohanan para pagtakpan ang kakulangan?
“You have to think about putting the country in a good light,” was Senator Joker Arroyo’s prescription, as he castigated the messengers of bad news for allegedly damaging the country’s image with their reporting on the botched hostage rescue."Don’t tempt us to use our powers here, to now issue a general broadcast policy—that will be a law."
During the recent grilling of broadcast media news executives led by Maria Ressa (ABS-CBN), Jessica Soho (GMA-7), and Luchi Cruz-Valdes (TV5) by RP senators in light of the culpability of the media in the botched Manila hostage-taking tragedy ---did Senator Arroyo et al really suggest that the local media should not report the news (Who, What, Where When, How of the story), if it will would be bad for the country's image? How about the foreign journalists? Along with our local media, foreign/international press and broadcast networks were also there to beam what was happening to the whole world as the drama unfolded.
I do not mean to absolve my colleagues of any mistakes they have made in this fiasco. Aminado rin naman ang ilang miyembro ng media sa naging pagkakamali nila. I honestly believe many of our media networks failed to observe the guidelines followed by responsible journalists and their blow-by-blow live reporting may have contributed to the failure of law enforcement operations. But what bothered me was the way the questions were framed and how the inquiry was made.(Part of the exchanges between the Senators and the broadcast news executives transcribed below).
While some news executives in the panel conceded that somehow they failed to exercise self-restraint and adherence to their self-regulatory policies in airing critical information and images, they expressed concern over the lack of leadership from the police authorities. Maria Ressa said, "There was the failure of authorities to actually create a functioning chain of command, to regulate, to set the parameters where media should be. It's not just Filipinos who want to see what happened. We did not expect [that] those in charge [to] not be in charge of the situation. We need a mechanism to tell us to pull back when needed."
Senator Joker Arroyo's response? "The problem, Maria, is this: Everybody is scared of the media. Let’s face it… You publish something unfavorable, then we’re finished. The point is, we hesitate because you are media. If you weren’t [in the] media, we would craft the law immediately."
Ressa cautioned against any new law that may be used by local and national government to curtail press freedom. This may be in violation of Article 3 Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. We have witnessed how this power to curtail freedom was used and abused during the Marcos regime. The good news is that this hostage-taking crisis has prompted some of the news media organizations --yes, both local and foreign--- to do some honest to goodness soul-searching on the role and ethical responsibility of media in society especially during hostage crisis coverage.
But as foreign observers have also observed and noted---this could have been avoided or averted had the police authorities exercised their already existing power to limit public and media access to the scene of the crime. Or is what many of our kababayans think true? That the police force has been craving for publicity as they executed this high intensity hostage drama in real life? Or do they even have a well-orchestrated plan as they carry out their operation?
In the process of truth finding on this systemic problem, what was disturbing was the seemingly obsessive focus of Sen. Joker Arroyo on the apparent need to deliberately cover up what is going on in the country, just so we won’t tarnish the country’s image, are indicative of a policy of retrogression. And with reference to his confessed fear of the media---is this a major motivating force in the way the good Senator and his esteemed colleagues decide which bill to draft and pass into law--- political survival and expediency?
First of all, as former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., counsel for Radio Mo Nationwide, reminded the senators --- the world has changed many times over in this information age of the internet, Facebook and Twitter. Traditional media is no longer the gatekeeper of news. And foreign/international broadcast media will cover this big story which is of international significance, no matter how much we try to silence our local media. Would the Philippine government impose rules on them too?
Second, are we going back to the age of dictatorship and censorship? Are we covering up something here just to maintain a pretentious image of efficient and effective law enforcement? Even Wall Street Journal Asia editorial board member Mary Kissel said, instead of going on a "media witch hunt," Philippine politicians should focus on the issues surrounding the August 23 hostage crisis. Babalik na naman ba tayo sa panahong sinisikil ang malayang pamamahayag para paniwalain natin ang ating sarili at ang mundo na ayos lang ang lahat kahit hindi?
Denial and repression may provide temporary relief for tension, anxiety and shame brought about by a crisis, but these defense mechanisms never solve problems. No amount of cover up can hide incompetence and mismanagement of our government institutions, especially in this modern world of electronic global communication.
If the good senators in the investigating panel need to castigate the media then they have to do what they have to do in accordance with the law. But they have to do it for the right reasons. Do it for media's non-adherence to highest ethical standards. Do it for the alleged inteference in botched negotiation. But please--not for allegedly tarnishing the country's image just by reporting what really transpired.
If the government is serious about putting the country in a good light, it must own its mistakes, confront them head on and solve the very core issues of the problem, so that the media—both local and global—will have something good to report about!
(Part of Senate Investigation-transcript)
Arroyo: Where did international media get their footage? Did the footage [which was] shown abroad come from stations here?
Legarda: Have there been many incidents in the past [when] you sold or provided information to international broadcast networks?
Ressa: ABS-CBN is a broadcast partner of CNN, we have access to their video, they have access to ours. CNN also has their own team in the ground, shooting the incident. We have many arrangements with international organizations -- Reuters, APTN, [with] every news event that comes in.
Dela Pena(GMA): Videos of GMA has been shared with APTN before.
Enrile: CNN has a correspondent in the Philippines, why did you assume the role of a correspondent of CNN instead of allowing rep of CNN to do it?
Ressa: CNN does not have anyone based in the Philippines. They brought someone in after [the event]. I [didn't] offer my services. They asked me to report. It's something international media does(media affiliates). They go to people who know the story.
Arroyo: Aren't you in a position of conflicting royalties at that time? Don't you think you have to find a way to balance your obligation to the country?
Ressa: As a reporter, the job is to tell the story and [to] tell the truth. It crosses country lines, it is an international dictum.
Arroyo: As far as I’m concerned, what was beamed overseas from what was taken during the hostage crisis, has damaged the Philippines immensely and we have not recovered from it.
Ressa: There was the failure of authorities to actually create a functioning chain of command, to regulate, to set the parameters where media should be. It's not just Filipinos who want to see what happened. We did not expect [that] those in charge [to] not be in charge of the situation. We need a mechanism to tell us to pull back when needed.
Arroyo: The problem, Maria, is this: Everybody is scared of the media. Let’s face it… You publish something unfavorable, then we’re finished. The point is, we hesitate because you are media. If you weren’t [in the] media, we would craft the law immediately. Don’t tempt us to use our powers here, to now issue a general broadcast policy—that will be a law.