Within certain parameters
Not to consider it as infringement or prior restraint to the Constitution- guaranteed freedom of the press, members of the fourth estate could be open to certain parameters that the government will set its coverage in emergency situations such as hostage and other similar aggressions as imperative of responsible journalism.
The despicable August 23 hostage incident that got the Manila police, particularly the Special Weapons and Tactics team, in a very bad light, served a lot of lessons not just to the national government and the Philippine National Police but the media as well. With all the details that unfolded before the eyes of the entire Filipino citizenry and the world as well, nothing escapes the analytical mind of those whose eyes and ears were glued to the blow-by-blow coverage of the bloody hostage happening.
Called as true test case, the incident gave way to the formulation of policies which apparently were not in place when the event happened. As the probe on flawed rescue and ground assault during the hostage that led to the death of the hostage taker and eight tourists from Hong Kong progresses, stark realities unravel. In their attempt to ferret out the truth that led to the gory end of the hostage drama, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee headed by Justice Sec. Leila De Lima presumably could not help but inject their personal perceptions on what transpired during the hostage crisis.
As the principles of law dictate, logic and experience likewise guide the members to get into the bottom of the pit and unearth what lies beneath the violent incident that shocked the whole world and elicited disdain from Hong Kong government and nationals. All those who could have contributed to the gruesome end of the hostage drama got their chance to the hot seat and supposedly say nothing but the truth and tell their side of the story. At the end of the day, it will be the recommendation of the IIRC that will be a basis for the next move of the national government.
In the meantime, Malacañang Palace is trying to keep the media working within certain parameters. The Palace communications group conducted a series of dialogue with national news outfits based in Metro Manila to iron out some kinks that developed during the hostage drama. The media, as can be noted, was partly blamed for the fury of the hostage-taker SInsp. Rolando Mendoza when he saw on TV the arrest of his brother SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza. Said arrest as well as the supposedly discreet attack of the ground assault team was part of media’s blow-by-blow account of the 12-hour hostage drama.
The dialog engendered four measures that could be adopted in compromise between the government and the media pertaining coverage of future crisis situations. In Inquirer.net, it was reported that these measures embrace the following: the definition of a safety zone or an exclusion zone where media and the public would be kept out of during the crisis; the non-interference of media in the crisis such as acting as hostage negotiators; the possibility of restraining live coverage of troop movement; and the designation of a crisis spokesperson.
With the bold stance of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III against imposing prior restraint on the media, these measures will be implemented not as a tall order but a matter of consensus which media outfits will carry out as a matter of self-regulation, according to Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma.
This is a strong recognition of the right of the media to disseminate information affecting public welfare and national interest, as guaranteed under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. However, underscoring the nature of emergency or crisis situations being covered and how this will be easily resolved without bloodbath, the freedom is not absolute. As the adage underscores, “One’s freedom ends where the right of another begins.”
Media plays an essential role in the society. It is given that media can make and unmake a nation. In the August 23 hostage crisis, the media’s desire to serve its purpose or at most to get the “edge” over their rivals in the industry, did not do good to the country.
It painted an overcast picture of the state of affairs of the Philippines as a nation where peace and order is precarious.
The power of the media is so immense and indisputably not subject to any compromise. However, again, if exercising such right and supremacy will only further ignite a crisis instead of striving to water it down, this right or freedom can somehow be regulated by sanctions of professionalism and sense of societal responsibility. These parameters should hopefully not only bind the national, but the local media, as well.
By: Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros
Short URL: http://leytesamardaily.net/?p=3517