August 25, 2010, 6:07pm
The National Press Club (NPC) on Wednesday said that the local media should not be blamed for doing their jobs during the hostage crisis that happened in Manila last August 23.
Defending fellow journalists, NPC President Jerry Yap stressed that the deaths of the hostages were not caused by the live coverage.
“There was no clear indication it was the live coverage that caused the death of the hostages; the police cannot blame the media for its failures,” Yap said.
Yap added that it can not be argued that without the live coverage, the deaths of the hostages would have been avoided.
"Each time, we will have a discussion with the PNP on such incidents, we always ask them to make a police line for the media and to tell us up to where we can do our work. What happened at the Quirino Grandstand is that even bystanders were there," Yap said.
Yap said he heard from a reporter who was present during the incident that no one from the police were communicating with the media during the whole incident.
Yap said the NPC is against the proposed news blackout, pointing out it is media's responsibility to tell the public what is really happening and what the authorities are doing over similar situations.
Cebu Rep. Luis Quisumbing earlier filed House Bill 2737 seeking to prevent media from reporting police and military positions, movements, and actions during crisis situations.
Meanwhile, former Press Secretary Rodolfo Reyes suggested that the Presidential Communications Group should take an active role in organizing media movement during crisis situations to ensure orderly coverage and safety of the people concerned.
Reyes, a former newspaperman, made the suggestion in the aftermath of the bloody hostage drama in Manila last Monday as he reminded fellow-journalists to be responsible and consider the “humanitarian aspect” of covering any hostage situation.
He urged the newly-organized communications group, forerunner of the Office of the Press Secretary, to set guidelines on media coverage during hostage situations in coordination with the police.
“Apart from the press relations officer of the police, representatives of the office of the communications group and the Philippine Information Agency should be present in hostage situations and set guidelines for media coverage. The media should not be left fending for themselves,” he said in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin.
As this developed, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) Chairman Conzoliza Laguardia said that, although news programs are exempted for review by the board, the media should have practiced caution in broadcasting the Manila hostage drama last August 23 on TV.
"Yung umaga up to five PM is still safe [kasi mga] news updates lang… sinasabi kung ano ‘yung nangyayari. What is questionable ng konti is ‘yung assault na [which was aired on primetime]…
‘Yung in detail na sinasabi at may kasamang violence. Sana nag-practice ng self-regulation ‘yung news programs. Nakalimutan siguro ng media,” Laguardia told Bulletin Entertainment in a phone interview.
Primetime news programs such as ABS-CBN’s “TV Patrol” and GMA-7’s “24 Oras” aired detailed and continuous live updates of the incident involving dismissed Senior Inspector and hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza and 17 Hong Kong nationals.
The footages included the arrest of his brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, as well as the assault that took place between the police and Inspector Mendoza, and up to the retrieval of the hostages, eight of whom died.
If it was a movie, she said, it would have been given an R-18 rating because of the high level of violence.
Laguardia said he hopes that the incident was not aired live, as she, just like many, deemed that the footages triggered Capt. Mendoza’s animosity, towards shooting some of the hostages.
“Dapat kasi i-calm down mo siya (Mendoza). Ngayon kung pinakita ng media ‘yung kamag-anak niya na nilalagay na sa sasakyan, siyempre mara-rattle ‘yon di ba? It’s really quite a predicament talaga,” she said, adding that the delayed telecast featuring still shots of the violent encounter would have been the better option.
However, she said she understands that the members of the media were only doing their jobs, risking their lives to deliver a blow-by-blow account of the scene, and in doing so, might have been “carried away” by the situation.
“It’s [the] first [time] na ganyan na para siyang pelikula. If you would remember ‘yung pelikulang ‘Speed’ ni Sandra Bullock. Parang ganon eh. Hindi siguro rin alam ng media [kung] pa’no iko-commiunicate ‘to in a proper ng direct way with caution,” she observed.
Since there was no violation on the part of the news programs (as they are not subject for review), Laguardia said the MTRCB will step in if there would be a formal complaint. “Ipapatawag natin ‘yung news program at ‘yung complainant, maghaharap sila. [And] kung meron mang decision ang MTRCB, pag-aaralan ‘yon. May due process din,” she said, noting that the MTRCB is a quasi-judicial body.
Malacañang, meanwhile, is planning to hold a dialogue with media organizations soon to firm up protocol during crisis situations in light of Monday’s bus hijacking incident.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they would pursue a “productive” discourse with the media rather than join the “blame game” in the aftermath of the bloody carnage.
Lacierda said Ramon Carandang, secretary of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, would sit down with journalists to tackle guidelines on coverage in times of crisis, including the possibility of news blackout in operational or tactical operations by government forces dealing with the problem.
“I understand that Secretary Carandang will be holding a dialogue with media to discuss how to handle a situation like,” he said in a press conference.
“We need to see how media can help us also remedy the situation. Let’s study the certain areas, including operational and tactical procedures. Let’s arrive at something what could be reported and what could not reported,” he added.
Lacierda said they will also look into the proposal that the Presidential Communications
Group takes an active role in controlling media movement during crisis situations. He said they will review the old guidelines on media coverage forged shortly after the Manila Peninsula hotel siege in 2007. “Let’s study and discuss the protocol after the Peninsula incident,” he added.
He appealed to the public to stop the "blame game" until the investigation into Monday's hostage-taking is complete. He assured the investigation undertaken by the Department of Justice would look into the handling of the police as well as media movement during the hostage crisis last Monday.
Lacierda also found premature calls by some lawmakers for the resignation of Carandang, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo over their alleged negligence in dealing with the hostage crisis.
“There is blame game going on. That’s the reason why there is an investigation that’s going to be undertaken by Secretary De Lima. Instead of doing the blame game for now, let’s leave it with the investigation process,” he said. (With a report by Rowena Joy Sanchez)