I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Still hypocritical

The media have been quick to defend their decision to embargo the news about Ces Drilon’s kidnapping. Their argument goes:

“If that story came out, it might have angered the abductors and the captors could have been harmed.”

That from the NUJP President. From the Maria Ressa, on the other hand:

Her argument was that things on the grounds were so confused at that point, and that ABS-CBN had to be quite fearful for the lives of its people.

To which the PDI responded:

We believe that the concern about the situation turning more volatile—possibly fatally—because of premature reporting was valid.

That’s a neat little circle of protection they have there, ain’t it? But it is the very validity of Maria Ressa’s argument that calls into question the subsequent acts of media. If the concern about premature reporting was valid for this kidnapping by the ASG and thus prompted restraint, it begs the question why didn’t the media exercise the same restraint in other cases of kidnappings by the ASG? If media was now so quick to accept the validity of those concerns, where was it’s collective head at during all those ASG kidnappings that went before?

And why stop at ASG kidnappings? Any kidnapping carries that risk of turning fatal when kidnappers – of whatever stripe – see their efforts bannered all over the news before they had consolidated their plans.

The PDI makes a half-hearted apology of sorts –

Which is not to say the media haven’t been taken to task for what one respected voice in Philippine journalism bluntly called an attempt by ABS-CBN to “manage the news.” Vergel Santos said “People there [in Sulu] can be lulled into a false sense of security,” and for that reason, “the complete story had to be given to cover all possibilities and lessen speculation.”

– which it ruined with a quick and rather churlish retort –

But people in the area most certainly knew what had transpired, as the fairly regular updates coming from concerned members of the Mindanao People’s Caucus will attest.

– that entirely missed the point. The sense of security of people in Sulu is a rather secondary point, the main objection being against the ‘management’ of the news.

Also, didja notice how the abrupt retort saved the PDI from actually responding to Santos’ criticism? Seriously. As a member of the public who is subjected daily to only one half of the news – the half that harangues people – while the other half that contains the explanations and the clarifications are often deliberately denied the light of day, I find this brazen exercise of the power to determine the extent of access to news disgusting. Its a question of trust, y’know? How can I trust the news now that I know for a fact that they they actually do filter the news so that all the public sees is what they want the public to see?

Didn’t the PDI even feel the need to apologize to the public for blatantly selecting what news to print? Of course they always do that, but being caught in flagrante delicto, one would think that they’d have the graciousness to at least blush and mumble a quick ‘sorry.’

HELL NO!. Instead, let’s deflect the criticism even further by making the government appear to be the bad guy.

It was the government propaganda machine that made an embargo moot and academic—in direct contrast to the usual official line that the media are reckless in their quest for a scoop. When state-owned television channel NBN-4 broke the story in its Monday evening news broadcast, the authorities quite consciously got the ball rolling, which made Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s subsequent appeal (“Likewise, we appeal for caution and restraint in media reportage as not to unduly hamper efforts to rescue them”) the height of official hypocrisy.

Again, the objection is against the embargo – and so what NBN 4 did was actually the right thing to do. As for Bunye’s appeal, I fail to see the hypocrisy in it since, defining hypocrisy as doing what you warn others against doing, I hardly think that the NBN report could be considered unrestrained, especially when compared to the bells and whistles the major private networks are overly fond of attaching to even the most pedestrian news. I mean, it’s not NBN newsreaders that scream the headlines at you, or bombard you with endless loops of the most graphic images possible.

And besides, who watches NBN anymore anyway? You can hardly get that channel in the ARMM, for crying out loud! The fact that people were finding out waaaay too late is testimony to the paltry reach of NBN. Let’s face it: 9 out of 10 people prolly didn’t get their first taste of that news from NBN. So, calling Bunye out for hypocrisy is just a stupid canard; an attempt to find someone more guilty of wrongdoing to mask the error of setting up a hypocritical embargo anyway.

Ah, but what’s the use, right? All this is so much water under the bridge. Or at least, that’s what the PDI wants people to think by this barely concealed attempt to say “discussion OVER.”

We are, however, duty-bound to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves. Torres says the consideration given ABS-CBN should now be extended to the families of all kidnap victims. In this sense, the decision among rival media outfits to respect ABS-CBN’s request for an embargo means that a policy shift has taken place. An embargo should now be standard operating procedure for all the media in the initial hours of a kidnapping.

Have we even discussed yet whether or not an embargo is the right way to go? PDI’s closing statement takes for granted that an embargo is the right course of action in the initial hours of a kidnapping. That’s yet another sly excuse for what they did. “Oooh, it was the right thing to do anyway – and we’ve been told off already anyway – and so now we’re gonna do it for everybody.”

Didn’t Vergel Santos just say that an embargo was wrong? Who died and made the NUJP the final arbiter of what news the public should or should not have access to? And “all the media?” since when has the PDI been the voice for “all the media?” Come ON. Isn’t arrogating unto itelf the role of rule maker just a tad … well, arrogant?

Instead, what the PDI should be saying is that they now admit that the people’s right to information (which they are always quick to slap in everyone’s faces) isn’t as super-trump as they’ve always ALWAYS made it out to be. But good luck trying to get them to say that. Despite the fact that the existence of one exception to the rule implies the possibility of other exceptions existing, this last statement by the PDI effectively tells the public that the media is willing to accept only this specific limitation on their right to exercise journalism as they see fit. Which is incredibly hypocritical still since everyone knows that mega media always limits public access to complete information by giving preferential exposure to news that falls in line with their editorial biases; and which is doubly hypocritical since the only reason they’re acknowledging this now is because they got caught red-handed.

Now, more than ever, should the reader beware.


Filed under: journalism, media, , ,

10 Responses

  1. BrianB says:

    No one wants to admit, they don’t take the philosophy behind their work seriously. Or maybe they do not understand it. Many have already died because reporters had to report. Many are put in danger, many are harassed by these reporters, people are afraid of reporters, whose only reason for being is that they are the eyes and ears of the people. Most of these media folk, whether they care to admit or not, think they are better than the people they make their reports for, much less be their eyes and ears.

  2. J says:

    Rom, there are those in the media who are opposed to the embargo. Among them is a friend and mentor of mine, Mr. Gil HA Santos. Here’s what he says on the media embargo (I have his permission to post this):


    The call for media “restraint” on the kidnapped Ces Drilon case is an example of subjective and unethical reaction.

    This is subjective and unethical simply because the entire act of calling for media “restraint” is an effort to treat her and her crew as special and powerful personalities in our society. Journalists, wherever they are and regardless of nationalities, MUST not be treated as”specials and favored citizens” as they should be because they treat everyone equally the same–heads of States, government officials (elected or appointed), suspected criminals, hostages or hostage-takers and convicts. That’s part of the ethics of the trade. And we must adhere to that.

    Journalists never ask for media restraints while they cover terorists’ bombings and gory details are photographed for front pages or the hourly broadcasts on radio and TV. Why ask in Ms. Drilon’s case?

    The problem is some of us in this trade, obviously cannot see that clearly particularly if he is the one directly or indirectly affected by the events or circumstances.

    As news persons, Ces Drilon and her crew must have known what they were getting into.
    Everybody–specially editors and publishers and fellow journalists–should have known that. They can all work out privately whatever they want but to call for media restraint and make that public is uncalled for.


    Gil Santos served as SEA bureau chief for the Associated Press and Dow Jones, Vice President of Journet. Correspondent for Time and Life magazines, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Vox Populi magazine, UNESCO National Commissioner for Philippines, Editor-in-Chief of People’s Tonight, People’s Journal and Taliba, among others.

  3. BrianB says:

    Nakakapraning diba? And then with all their rationalizations. They think we’re stupid or what?

  4. cvj says:

    So was the embargo wrong or was it right? If it would have been right for the previous kidnap victims, then shouldn’t it have been right for the ABS-CBN crew? If, on the other hand, an embargo is wrong for the previous and present kidnap victims, then who was it who previously said…

    “I can’t completely divorce myself from the innate wrongness of letting someone die just to prove a point. This isn’t Sparta, after all.”

    …doesn’t your This isn’t Sparta principle apply to this dilemma as well?

  5. Rom says:

    cvj: My complaint is against the hypocrisy of the media reversing itself and calling an embargo right when the stakes suddenly became personal. And there is no dilemma, simply because u cant prove that the embargo saved any lives. In fact, the value of the embargo can’t be proven one way or the other.

    anyway, as i’ve often pointed out, my subjective personal views i try not to let get in the way of what i deem to be the objective right

  6. J says:

    How on earth could an embargo save the kidnap victim’s life?

    My take is maybe the wanted an embargo because they were hoping to negotiate their way out of the situation before the news would come out.

  7. BrianB says:

    CVJ, I am not interested if embargo is rgiht or wrong. it mght as well be right, but the fact that it took Ces Drilon for these people to think about it and nary a thought before for other victims in UNETHICAL.

  8. Bencard says:

    speaking of ethical violation, when lawyers or physicians violate their code of ethical conduct, they get get disciplined or punished, e.g., disbarred, suspended, license revoked, or becomes a pariah , depending on the gravity of the wrongdoing. when a member of the media trade commits unethical act, he/she gets a slap on the wrist (except when convicted of defamation) and then allowed to go back to business as usual.

    they all got it made.

  9. […] Rom said what could be the bottomline of the issue of the media embargo: “Now, more than ever, should the reader beware.” […]

  10. […] Rom said what could be the bottomline of the issue of the media embargo: “Now, more than ever, should the reader beware.” […]

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