Blood smears of the lens

Discourse of Media Coverage on hostage crisis By: Nikko Norman C. Izar

The nostalgia of horror and drama during the Jun Ducat and the Manila Pen Siege resurrected from its memorial grave when the week jumpstart with a tragedy brought by former high ranking commissioned police Rolando Mendoza hostage a tourist bus. The 11-hour hostage drama has been a complete package of reel-to-real dealing the character’s of the story and whom to pin the blame. From morning before the end of the day, the people from the actuality (by stand mongers) and the viewing public have been thrilled to know what would be the resolution to the said story of agony of a police and his rage to the Hong Kong and Chinese tourists. Looking closely to the event will discern a “domino effect” of such incident to the country’s picturesque and even an immediate clasp to the state, national security and media’s role and sufficiency to provide a remedy for the tragedy. The story has been the talk of the town, everyone flock and geared with their insights and personal buttress to express their views to the said event. The death of nine people is the worst consequence of police incompetence and media insensitivity last Monday. This paper will analyze how the media relinquished its role during the hostage crisis. Using experts’ insights and analysis of the event, the paper will prove a justification as to what media do and failed to do during the hostage crisis. This paper will also provide scrutinized justifications by citing the main points of the faults of media during hostage crisis. Scoop mentality: Immediacy over relevance and risks The fundamental criterion of such coverage and responsibility is not to make an already bad situation worse. The hostage crisis is too dangerous and sensitive since it involve lives. The media must not put into practice that protocols have to be observed or even ignorant from the event itself. The self regulatory regime and the freedom of expression as well as the shield law seem to be the fortress of the media to exempt themselves from determining the values and liability of their action. However the responsibility for social welfare is to minimize the harm and not just covering the story for the public. The media should prohibit the continuous coverage to further residing the issue and not inflammation it. The hostage crisis has been a “real package” and actuality wherein subjects are victims and there is an antagonist whom was raged and any time will kill a victim. The media on its haste and realization of their

private priority chose their own pace to make and remake the story out of its fatal pedestal. Here the “scoop mentality” has been incense for the media to pursue covering and do beyond of it without any precautionary measures of the possible effect. Media chose immediacy over relevance and risks that the crisis might bring. A spectacle wherein the media failed to give way to the police and the state to relinquish its role. Neglecting such idea is too dangerous to the lives of the hostages. Assumption of the “might” is rejecting the entire vulnerability of the event not thinking that any time lives might be taken. The three leading stations abused the roles of the media as they capture the event with their cameras giving a picturesque of a drama abducting people into a “mediated reality” and “an event that was staged”. Canned, ready to serve and spoon-fed. These stations were afraid to be “out scooped”. Self-positioning on the tragedy; report or being reported? Another mistake is the media as a negotiator, doing an interview from replacing the power of the police now a subject of the story. It is wrong to interview the hostage for the following reasons. One is that the interview will cause “an accomplice like” action since it was aired live. Next, the negotiating is a rejection of psychological attributes that the hostage taker might render. Loss of control, impatience might occur. Moreover, the hostage takers might see his/her enemy which will provoke for further demands or false reactions. Lastly, the media were “interviewer” accord to purpose of information retrieval and not “negotiator”. Here the networks exhibit a very obvious failure of submission to the police and to the state’s response or even make fun with the police and making them a great contributor of making the event worse. As a result the police were also included on the “black lists” of the public. Interviews weren’t just the case but also the airing and coverage rules. The unpredictability of the event must be noted and taken into a big point of view. The media savvy is too poisonous that it made the coverage infested. Live airing will trigger the event since the TV on the bus will shows the movements and plans of the police. The anticipation of the hostage taker (whom is also a police) further prolongs the crisis. Given that idea will bring us to the driving point of ignorance especially when the arrest of Mendoza’s brother was aired on TV. Turning tragedy into a package of spectacle Preoccupied mind of the networks made them report the “who-did-what-to-whom-when-and-where”. Too much of the details are given some were relevant but most of it are embellishments and gift wraps to make the story appeal. Unnecessary detailed reporting resulted dangerous because they divulged details from tactical to trivial; details that may have incensed the hostage-taker or compromised the operations of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The media continued airing sensitive incidents.

“I don’t know if the media were aware that whatever they were reporting was getting to the hostagetaker and, therefore, was likely to provoke a reaction. I don’t know if they were aware of that. If they were, they should have known better,” said Luis V. Teodoro, deputy director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and former dean of the U.P. College of Mass Communication, in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer Forgotten or never recognized? In crisis situations, rule number one for media is to report with restraint, especially when reports are broadcast live. The stations blow-by-blow coverage made the saga continued. Turning the tragedy into a spectacle, into a show where everyone can flock and mock about it. The inept police and hysterical media made a bungle clash that made the hostage crisis a bloody ending. According to the National Union of Journalist in the Philippines, much of the guidelines have to be examined and be implemented to make the coverage even more useful rather than a spectacle and trivialized. In addition, Journalist teacher Luz Rimban calls for introspection into when live coverage is really needed. Live coverage is a must in situations such as the disaster that Typhoon Ketsana caused in record floods in 2009, when media had to report the extent of damage and identify where help was needed. However, the case is entirely different from the covering of a typhoon rampage. Here the public service was rejected over the blast of news reports. Most guidelines in covering crisis situations were forgotten during the Aug. 23 hostage drama, points out Red Batario, Asia-Pacific coordinator of the International News Safety Institute, which provides safety training for journalists worldwide. 'Everybody was so caught up in drama. They were trying to outdo each other to get the better shot and break the story first,'…should have considered that by airing live they could have endangered lives, including their own.'-Red Batario Moreover, Vergel Santos of Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility added that the media naturally proceeded to position themselves as close to the action as they could: it's a professional frame of mind. From holding the camera now, holding a simulated gun ready to fire when there’s a new story to tell. Some top officials at the scene were 'scarcely heard from or seen taking command, effectively inviting the media to feed freely on the spectacle. The entire story not only depicts the hostage crisis but the clash of National security and the media.

Too much of divulging sensationalized and editorialized information Faculty, staff, and students at the UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) had called the media to account for their coverage. "While (they) should be commended for providing up-to-date information on what transpired, some media organizations should be criticized for the same reason because they ended up giving TOO MUCH information," - Rolando Tolentino. Much of information is a driving point from public welfare to media private interest. The shortcomings became a neglecting the idea of media identification of its freedom, responsibilities and ethics. It is informing and transforming the public but not giving them “what to think of something out of nothing”. Media should consider leading the public for responsible decision and cooperation for preserving their democracy and freedom of ideas. Such act now invited the government intervention to restrict press freedom addressing the concerns for responsibility and values. The media's handling of Monday's incident has prompted proposals in government to tighten protocols on crisis coverage like House Bill 2737 of Cebu Rep. Luis Quisumbing. In addition, Roberto Del Rosario, board member of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) said they are willing to sit down with authorities and review standard operating procedures. "If we had unilaterally pulled away, it wouldn't have affected the situation. If we didn't give you what happened, would you have known, could we even have this debate? That doesn't absolve us of our own (mistakes)," she said. It must be stressed the need for journalists to have processed the information they gathered before broadcasting it to the public. Furthermore, if there were a direct line between newsroom heads during the crisis, they could have agreed on controls in such an uncontrollable situation. The tragedy may have shown another side to the local media's growth in ethical adherence. As a review I included the code of KBP for broadcast ethics.

Broadcast code 2007 Article 6. CRIME AND CRISIS SITUATIONS Sec. 1. The coverage of crimes in progress or crisis situations such as hostage-taking or kidnapping shall not put lives in greater danger than what is already inherent in the situation. Such coverage should be restrained and care should be taken so as not to hinder or obstruct efforts of authorities to resolve the situation. (G) Sec. 2. Coverage should avoid inflicting undue shock and pain to families and loved ones of victims of crimes, crisis situations, disasters, accidents, and other tragedies. (S) Sec. 3. The identity of victims of crimes or crisis situations in progress shall not be announced until the situation has been resolved or their names have been released by the authorities. The names of fatalities should be aired only when their next of kin have been notified or their names released, by the authorities. (S) Sec. 4. The coverage of crime or crisis situations shall not provide vital information or offer comfort or support to the perpetrators. (G) Sec. 5. Stations are encouraged to adopt standard operating procedures (SOP’s) consistent with this Code to govern the conduct of their news personnel during the coverage of crime and crisis situations. (A) Sec. 6. Persons who are taken into custody by authorities as victims or for allegedly committing private crimes (such as indecency or lasciviousness), shall not be identified, directly or indirectly -- unless a formal complaint has already been filed against them. They shall not be subjected to undue shame and humiliation, such as showing them in indecent or vulgar acts and poses. (S) From the way the media commodified the story as a real drama that the public will always be amazed to buy; the scoop mentality and media’s priority that made the story a “stationary reality” caused much framing of the wrong viewpoint of the story. Moreover, it also inculcates how the 11- hour hostage drama coverage dominates public opinion on how the PNP, SWAT that government failed to render the role in promoting peace and orderliness in the country. The fact that the media must not be a chronicler of the event but a community servant meaning a part of the public. The ethics has been a code of suggestions. Turning the event into an entire spectacle is the greatest sin that the media have portrayed because of the wrong exposition of functions during the event.

On the other hand, reporters must be active on proffering answers and solutions to the questions and problems that they themselves have raised. They must realize not to diminish the objective, if they will say represent the people; therefore they are not just chronicler of an event. To ferret the most insightful part of news story must be the goal but must set apart when needed. According to Professor Luis Teodoro, the reporters are limiting their role. They are not uncovering and describing the problems in a belief that at the end of the day, the last paragraph of an expose is just an end, a release, a catharsis. Furthermore, Teodoro said that instead of meaningful engagement, they just hammered the idea of neutrality and objectivity in sense of involvement – reports by them are observed without participation. Teodoro concluded that balance can be dichotomized into either objectivity or compassion. Sensationalism and commodification of news brought about by the very nature of media as business entity, always harangue the media. Sadly, when the media was veiled by the mist of interest and economic imperatives they fail to see that once sensationalism is justified on the grounds of expediency, a habit then a malaise. The worst? An embedded ideology, once the plague started, the cure will always be palliative. The producer and recipients? Things would happen as what they used to see it, voyeur, sneak in and later on will leave without compunction and guilt. Lapses of reactions are observed but actions are artifice. For the last point, let me end up an assessment that [m]edia may not be entirely to blame, but nevertheless, some of that blood is on their lenses. Sources:
www.nujp.org www.asiacorrespondent.org www.cmfr.org www.manilatimes.net http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=19329

Nikko Norman C. Izar AB-Broadcast Communication University of the East - Manila nikkoizar@gmail.com/nikkoizar@yahoo.com 0906-516-7105/0932-590-7753

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