ME, MEDIA, and the LAWS

(re-blogged/original article was posted in Friendster blog)

It is not the barrel of the gun that extinguishes us from this profession but it is our empty stomach that could force us to leave from media.

I said it and I said it again and i’m going to say it again.

I said it sometime 2006 before a gathering in Manila of some Southeast Asian journalists, who were part of the Konrad Adenauer Center for Journalism, when killings of journalists were discussed.

I had emphasized then that no amount of threats could coward our fate to deliver the truth in the exercise of our journalism practice.

On Friday, December 7, 2007–I have reiterated that frank statement of mine before the attendees of the Marshal Mcluhan Forum Series on Responsible Media at the Audio-Visual Room of the University of San Jose Recoletos in Cebu City, Philippines.

The forum, dubbed “Lives in Conflict: Human Rights and the Media” had Philippine Graphics editor Maria Salvacion “Inday” Varona as main speaker.

I was one of the three reactors from the media. I repeated the statement in reaction to Ma’am Inday’s talk on the spate of journalists killings in the country.

I told the attendees in the forum, mostly students of mass communications from various universities, that if I was among the journalists inside Manila Peninsula on the afternoon of November 29, 2007, i wouldn’t hesitate to stay inside even if the threats of our lives had becoming intense.

About 50 journalists were inside the Manila Peninsula tagging with the group of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV when the combat-packed Special Action Force from the Philippine National Police fired tear gas in preparation for the evident attack against some 30 armed supporters of Senator Trillanes and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim.

Media always opt to get the news “by hook or by crook” and even crossing the police lines at the crime scene has always been a natural thing in news coverage.

While it is not appropriate to cross the lines but journalists oftentimes brandish his media pass to get in for the pursuit of his commitment to get the news right from the horse’s mouth.

I recalled my experience while covering the Mindanao War in 1999 between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as a proof that i am not afraid of the exchanges of gun shots while in the middle of a coverage.

While, it is true that journalists have also their families to feed and have children to raise–that journalistic instinct to cover the event prevailed over and above anything else even losing the opportunity to reunite with their families.

“No retreat, No Surrender” and  “Walang atrasan” are always the choices for the media.

Obstruction of justice may be a case against the journalists who remained at the Manila Peninsula. On the other hand, journalists leaned on the freedom of the press as guaranteed by our constitution to be their defense of the case.

Lastly, everyone in the forum agrees that the arrest of about 30 journalists at the Manila Peninsula was illegal.

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“Ampatuan” Massacre!!!

I saw how our Muslim brothers fought against government forces while their families were assisted by the government at the evacuation centers… I saw them fall down as they were hit by government bullets… I saw how their families mourned later that day… I saw how our Muslim leaders displayed their long arms even inside shopping malls… It’s a greed for power… It’s an arrogant display of power!!!

USEC Zamzamin Ampatuan, in a rare interview, admitted there is a “culture of violence” in their place in Maguindanao and according to him ” it’s a problem”. USEC Ampatuan belongs to the Ampatuan clan who is now the center of criticism and persecution by those who grieved for the death of the 57 victims of the so-called “Maguindanao Massacre

I would rather name the slaughtering as “Ampatuan Massacre” as it happened at the town of Ampatuan without directly attributing it to the Ampatuan clan. Maguindanao is so big that its entire province will be unfairly dragged to the incident. It is only appropriate to name it “Ampatuan Massacre” to remind the people in that poor town of the atrocities of their leaders.

I used to pass by the area where the convoy of the Mangudadatus where held and waylaid to their place of death. The paved hi-way of Ampatuan is inhabitated on its sides like a usual countryside road. I had joined the group of VP Noli de Castro in his TV Patrol Caravan in Mindanao before he became senator. Our convoy passed by the area and our security escorts told us to speed up past the area as it is prone, not by road accidents, but by ambushcades.

I saw the poverty state of the province  and the poorest residents of this country. Ironical, that its leaders–the Ampatuans are sporting in 6-valve vehicles around the small town. I saw the Ampatuans in Davao City and their mansions in Juna Subdivision where i used to pass by while on-assignment in the City for four years.

Some of the Ampatuan kids were enrolled in The Philippine Women’s College where my kids were also studying. The parents in the school had complained of the presence of armed men inside the campus fetching the Ampatuan kids. That caused the banning of parents’ vehicles from going inside the campus to prevent the Ampatuans’ bodyguards from getting inside the campus.

Davaoenos can not forget a homicide case involving one of Andal Ampatuan’s grandsons sometime 2002. The young Ampatuan was detained but eventually released after posting bail. The last information i’ve got–the case was settled outside the court.

MINDANAO–the “MOST DANGEROUS PLACE” IN THE WORLD FOR JOURNALISTS

That Friday before the November 23, 2009 “Ampatuan Massacre”, my Media Laws and Ethics class was tackling about Mindanao being one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists as described by the France-based organization Reporters Without Borders.

Of the 52 journalists killed since 1986 in the Philippines, 24 were in Mindanao, 6 in the Visayas and the rest in Luzon.

The most prominent of the Mindanao journalists killing are the murders of Arlene Esperat of Cotabato City and Edgar Demalerio in Pagadian City. Jun Pala’s death in Davao City may also be remembered as the late broadcaster was a staunch critic of Mayor Rodrigo “The Executioner” Duterte. Esperat’s killing was linked to the fertilizer anomaly at the Department of Agriculture while Demalerio’s case involved a policeman who was hired to kill the radio broadcaster.

The Reporters Without Border put the Philippines in the 2009 World Press Freedom Index at the 122nd rank among 175 countries. The rank was an improvement of last year’s 139th rank due to the 8 murders of journalists. Prior the “Ampatuan Massacre”, there were only 2 journalist killings in the country in 2009 which improved the ranking of the Philippines in the Press Freedom Index.

JOURNALISTS @ THE WRONG PLACE, @ THE WRONG TIME, BUT OF THEIR OWN CHOICE.

All of the more than 30 journalists covering the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy of Buloan Vice-Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu on that fatal day of November 23 were informed beforehand of the danger in joining the convoy. In fact, as it was told by a correspondent who was not able to join the convoy, a meeting of the journalists and the Mangudadatu was held on Sunday to ensure the safety of the journalists joining the convoy.

There was no police escorts nor military personnel securing the convoy. It was why the Mangudadatu requested media to join them thinking the Ampatuans will be prevented by the presence of the journalists.

But it was a case of  “leave no trace” as allegedly instructed by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr who was tagged as leader of the 100 heavily armed men who waylaid and killed all of the 57 victims.

That brutal day has been receiving condemnation from all over the world and has been the subject of discussions among international media groups. The Arroyo administration is pressured by the callings of the United Nations and the European Union and other nations for a speedy justice.

I let my students search for the reactions of various organizations and individual journalist about the “Ampatuan Massacre“:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

“…never in the history of journalism have the news media suffered such a heavy loss of life in one day.

International Federation of Journalist

This is an event which shocks journalists around the world to the core.

Southeast Asian Press Alliance

Failure to act, we are afraid, would not only be an indictment of Philippine leadership. It will be nothing new.”

College Editors Guild of the Philippine

RP could be most murderous country for journalists. Maguindanao massacre an act of political barbarism.

Press Photographers of the Philippines

We condemned the culture of impunity that encourages continued attacks on press freedom and to our economy.

International News Safety Institute

“…it goes beyond an attack on journalism and press freedom– it is an appalling assault on democracy itself.

Philippine Press Institute

“…We must put a stop to the culture of impunity in the killing of journalists and make the country safe again for media people.

Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas

“…the carnage is another blow to the already battered image of Philippine media.

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

“…no story is worth the life of a single journalist.

juntariman

AMPATUAN MASSACRE”.. It’s a culture of 3G (not the cellphone technology)–Guns, Goons, and Gold… others say 4G (not the herbal product)–the 4th G is Gloria… i added C+ (not the Cobol programs in computers)–Cars… Yes, they loved “hot”cars

More reactions soon…