Covering a Hostage-Taking Crisis


Media may stop covering crimes in progress such as hostage-taking, like the Luneta incident yesterday, if it feels the reportage can jeopardize the police operation or if it endanger lives.

The Luneta hostage-taking involving a dismissed policeman was well-covered by media and even went on full-live coverage at prime time. It reminded me of the media’s role during such crisis as embodied in the 2007 Broadcast Code of the KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas). Click here for a copy of the code.

Article 6:

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. 4. The coverage of crime or crisis situations shall not provide vital information or offer comfort or support to the perpetrators. (G)
All KBP-member stations are obliged to adhere to these provisions of its own Code of Ethics. However, there are broadcast stations like the ones belonging to GMA which are not members of the KBP. This self-regulation of sort is a manifestation of media to act responsibly on situations where tact and prudence are required.
The PNP may ask media outlets to stop covering the event especially the live coverage. Media can understand the grounds of the PNP for such request. But no request was made by the PNP to any media outlet. ABS-CBN claims it imposed self-restraint by being selective in airing the footage while holding for hours the context of the interview with the hostage-taker early in the coverage. The interview was aired after the negotiation bogged down.
I can still hear some blames on the media for the coverage while others pointed to the PNP for its biggest lapses.
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4 thoughts on “Covering a Hostage-Taking Crisis

  1. As per in the article above, I think it is still the authority in command who must be more responsible than the media! The in-charge for the rescue operation must initiate the action for stopping the coverage for such incident rather than they are just waiting or not even alerted that it may give an obstruction for their operation! People not really understand to analyze the situation. The authority is the one who has the responsibility for the operation and not the media.

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    • Yes, you’re right. It only takes a PNP official to ask the media to stop the live coverage. It’s been repeatedly agreed, in various memoranda of understanding, between the KBP and the National Telecommunications for media not to provide details on the position of government troops in a situation like hostage-taking rescue operation.

      Last Monday’s hostage-taking, the TV footage clearly identified the position of the SWAT team while the hostage-taker took note of it while watching the TV monitor inside the bus. I hope, my colleague in the media shall observe the provisions of the code the next we shall cover similar event.

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  2. I’m surprised to know that there is in fact a code that covers media behavior in times of covering a hostage crisis such as the one we witnessed last monday. But what I would like to know is what is media’s liability for violating the provisions of the code? Which court or forum should we go to to hold the networks liable? It is not enough that a code of conduct exists, there should be a resulting penalty for its violation. And this time, the networks who are guilty should be punished. If they demand for heads to roll in the PNP, we also demand for heads to roll in the networks. Tama na, masyado na silang spoiled at walang disiplina. Given na dati ng may problema sa kapulisan natin, pero we expected a higher standard of performance from the media. Kasi di ba mayabang sila, magaling magpuna at magsulat pero kahit sila dapat accountable.

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    • I am sorry. You can’t file a complaint in any court of law against media for violating it’s own Code. It’s just a Code of Ethics adopted by the media organizations themselves. In this case, it’s the Broadcast Code of the KBP (meaning, only KBP-member stations are subject to the its self-regulation). The Code of Ethics is adopted in the absence of a law to govern an organization since under our Constitution (Art. III-Bill of Rights) there shall be no law to be passed abridging the freedom of the press, speech and of expression.

      However, you can raise your complaint before the KBP’s Standards Authority which is the grievance committee of the organization.

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