Media In Focus: Watching The Watchdogs


On Sept. 14, in the words of this paper (Philippine Daily Inquirer), “Senators led by former press freedom champion Joker Arroyo took turns browbeating messengers of bad news for allegedly tarnishing the country’s image with their reporting on the botched hostage rescue.” Eight Hong Kong nationals were massacred during the incident inside a bus parked in the Quirino Grandstand.

There were two issues at stake at the media hearings, although Arroyo attempts to make them one and the same. The first was the media’s lapses during the hostage crisis. On Aug. 23, news networks aired the crisis live on national television, making available information to the hostage-taker via a television inside the bus. ABS-CBN aired a blow-by-blow account of the situation, including assault positions, as well as live footage of the hostage-taker’s brother being arrested. TV5 reporter Erwin Tulfo, with fellow Radyo Mo Nationwide commentator Michael Rogas tied up the hostage-taker’s phone line in an increasingly tense 45-minute radio interview that ended with gunshots.

“We just wanted to talk to the hostage-negotiator first. We did not know that there were negotiations. We did not know that he would get angry. We were thrown into a situation that escalated into something that made even us nervous.”

It is true that the press failed to regulate itself, aggravating the situation for an already inept police force. There is a limit to press freedom, and even the lowest standard demands a respect for human life. Since the massacre, broadcast networks have committed to reform. GMA Network vice president for news programs, Jessica Soho, acknowledged that they could have performed better. ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs head Maria Ressa said during the hearing that they never expected that authorities would not be in control of the crisis situation, and said that belief was their failure as well. The concession was clear: inept leadership does not excuse journalistic irresponsibility.

Read full text: The Joker by Patricia Evangelista, Inquirer.net

"Maybe it is the media that has us divided." --Laura Bush

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” --Malcolm X

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgerize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” --William Bernbach

“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.” --Marshall McLuhan

“The media tends to report rumors, speculations, and projections as facts... How does the media do this? By quoting some 'expert'... you can always find some expert who will say something hopelessly hopeless about anything.” --Peter McWilliams

“The media's power is frail. Without the people's support, it can be shut off with the ease of turning a light switch.” --Corazon C. Aquino

“For a politician to complain about the press is like a ship's captain complaining about the sea.” --Enoch Powell

“In day-to-day commerce, television is not so much interested in the business of communications as in the business of delivering audiences to advertisers. People are the merchandise, not the shows. The shows are merely the bait.” --Les Brown

“People in the media say they must look at the president with a microscope. Now, I don't mind a microscope, but boy, when they use a proctoscope, that's going too far.” --Richard M. Nixon

"Whoever controls the media, controls the mind." --Jim Morrison

"Ought we not to ask the media to agree among themselves a voluntary code of conduct, under which they would not say or show anything which could assist the terrorists' morale or their cause while the hijack lasted." --Margaret Thatcher

"These days politics, religion, media seem to get all mixed up. Television became the new religion a long time back and the media has taken over." --Van Morrison

"The question confronting the Church today is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the Gospel message." --Pope John Paul II