Advice for Philippine Media: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Monday’s hostage crisis in the Philippines was one mistake after another. Whether it was the hostage taker himself to the police to the government to the media, all had their own part in the failure of a fast and peaceful resolution.

As a student of media studies, I know full well the politics and greed that run the various organizations whose sole responsibility is and should be to serve the public with true and important information.

And yet, Monday’s media coverage from local Philippine television stations was an incredible display of irresponsibility and carelessness, as have the actions of those same television stations since then in response to criticism.

I saw ABS-CBN’s Sol Aragones and GMA’s Susan Enriquez in the brother’s face with a microphone as he was being restrained on the ground. I saw ABS-CBN, GMA and TV5 microphones closer to the family on the ground than police. I saw reporters squeezing their way between police officers to get scoop. I saw microphones running towards the driver as he escaped.

This is not just covering a story, this is BECOMING the story. Nakikigulo lang ang media, they were inserting themselves and exacerbating an already tense and delicate situation. Police and mediamen pushing and shoving all over the place.

Funny how ABS-CBN News’ official statement asks all media colleagues to unite, and yet Maria Ressa washed ABS-CBN’s hands clean and indirectly placed blame on the network’s competitors.

“[Mendoza was not watching ABS-CBN.]”
What is that supposed to mean? All TV stations were showing the exact same thing. All TV stations crossed the line, did not show self-restraint, did not respect common journalistic sense, nor common human sense. And still, with this statement, ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs does not take responsibility for their mistakes, instead defending them. It has nothing to do with press freedom and everything to do with thinking about lives hanging in the balance. Monday’s coverage from ABS-CBN and all the networks showed the hunger for the “first” scoop and the “exclusive” over human life.

Otherwise, the television networks would have taken it upon themselves to control what was being aired and what their reporters were doing on the ground. This isn’t even about press freedom or censorship. What about putting yourselves out of the situation instead of becoming part of the situation?

But it’s all been done already. What is there to do now? In addition to reviewing the policies and guidelines when it comes to covering these kinds of situations and events, what about first taking responsibility for your actions and admit that you as news organizations made mistakes and apologize for lapses in judgment that only made the crisis worse. Stop pointing fingers and take responsibility.

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