Bladed fury


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CEBU CITY– The “sharpest sword” is controlled-fury spoken, the Buddha said. Anti-crime crusader Teresita Ang See slashed with that blade at the killing of eight Hong Kong tourists probe..

“You had the line (to hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza),” a furious Ang See told Radyo Mo Nationwide’s Michael Rogas and Jake Madarzo. . “But you didn’t bother to make an appeal to free them.”

“Ma’am Ang See was right,” Erwin Tulfo, TV5 chief correspondent told Justice Secretary Lila de Lima. Media tried to “out scoop” each other. The rat race was for ratings that ping cash registers, not save lives. Did the tourist hostage crisis morph into a “captive” of broadcast competition?

Among jostling broadcasters, Tulfo squeezed in a line to Mendoza ,. The bus TV monitor, showed arrest of the gunman’s brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, he reported. That triggered Mendoza’s massacre.

When was the Kapisanan Ng Mga Brodkaster’s rule book jettisoned? Or Poynter Institute’s “Guidelines for Covering Hostage-Taking Crises”?

“Strongly resist the temptation to telephone a hostage taker”, caution Poynter ”One wrong question” from the untrained, “could jeopardize someone’s life.”.

“Calling could tie up phone lines or otherwise complicate communication efforts by negotiators, the guidelines warn. “Always assume that the hostage taker has access to the reporting”.

“Was a live report worth the hostage deaths?”, UP mass communication students pressed broadcasters. We violated no law, , replied RMN’s anchors. We only reported. We are not negotiators. It’s not our fault.“
Inquirer columnist Rigoberto Tiglao agrees. “The State’s overarching job is to save the victims, by whatever means,” he asserts in “Media Will be Media” commentary. “Cruel as it may sound, concern about the safety of hostages can not be media’s concern, even if we applaud media people whose priority is such….”

Inquirer’s Randy David has such priority. So do we. In his column “Madness and Accountability,” David writes: “Where lives are at stake…one does not need an explicit protocol for media behavior….RMN anchors kept hostage-taker Mendoza on the air …

“(This prompted) investigating committee member Teresita Ang-See’s justified retort: “Your profession should never be more important than human lives.” David adds. “It is what a commonsensical orientation to law and order requires of all citizens….

Common sense compelled KBP to shred blanket defense of members. Individual stations began internal reviews. GMA-7 said it would come up with revised guidelines.

ABS-CBN aired a report that pinpointed police deployment, wrote Kara Santos of Asia Media Forum. But it refused to air the hostage taker’s threats live .If negotiators called for a temporary blackout, the station would have complied.

The Ang See “slashes” are compelling media to re-examine standards hewed from painful experience. These include Somali pirates detaining seamen, , Abu Sayyaf hostages in Sipadan to terrorists bundling ambassadors from an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Austria.

Associated Press to Der Speigel in Germany work have guidelines that peg preventing of harm as first duty. . Here are excerpts from British Broadcasting Corporation protocols:

“We should consider ethical issues raised by providing a platform to hostage takers, especially if they make direct contact. We must remain in editorial control…Thus, we do not interview a perpetrator live on air… or broadcast any video and/or audio provided by a perpetrator

“We broadcast recordings made by perpetrators, whether of staged events, violent acts or their victims, only after referral to a senior editorial figure…. We delay broadcasting live material of sensitive stories, specially when the outcome is unpredictable…

“When reporting stories relating to hijacking, kidnapping, hostage we must listen to advice from the police and other authorities about anything which, if reported, could exacerbate the situation.

“Occasionally the police will ask us to withhold information situation. We will normally comply with a reasonable request, but we will not knowingly broadcast anything that is untrue”.

“The BBC procedure for dealing with such requests must be followed” Translation: Those who don’t are fired. Will that happen here?

Is our problem deeper than reckless broadcasters? Read the New York Times obituary on New York City police chief Simon Eisdorfer.

He foresaw, in the 1972 hostage and murder of 11 Israeli athletes, at the Olympics in Munich, an emerging threat. And he cobbled today’s world emulated hostage negotiation team.

His team, in 1973, secured release of 12 unharmed hostages in Brooklyn. The gunmen surrendered after 47 hours. — the first of many bloodless rescues

“He demonstrated effectiveness of protracted negotiation over armed confrontation.” New York Times said “Mr. Eisdorfer de-emphasized confrontation, focusing instead on saving lives.”

Our broadcasters dashed to Quirino grandstand and reported the obvious. But who saw — and pointed out–the subtle institutional start of such emergencies?

For almost a decade, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Department of Interior coddled Joseph Estrada and the Ampatuans. But it never crafted a negotiating team. Such a team would have made all the difference at Luneta.

But “we are limited, alas, not by our abilities, but by our lack of vision.”

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