Warning to media

By the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)

For more information please contact CMFR:
(+63 2) 894-1314/894-1326/840-0903/840-0889
[email protected]
www.cmfr-phil.org
www.twitter.com/cmfr

THE CENTER for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) reiterates its warning, made in many other instances in the past, that media failure to regulate themselves will invite government intervention.

It is in fact happening now, with the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives that would require TV and radio networks to delay the airing of broadcasts during crisis situations, in addition to the idea being bandied about that government should impose news blackouts during crises—meaning keep the media ignorant and out of crisis venues.

Both are properly the calls of media organizations, which should have enough sense to know when to delay the airing of broadcasts as well as when to “black out”, the fundamental criterion for the latter being the responsibility not to make an already bad situation worse.

The ethical and professional protocols of both in journalism practice are fairly well-established. These protocols warn against live broadcasts of interviews, police operations and other reports. The same protocols are the result not only of hundreds of years of experience and journalism practice, but also of journalists’ engagement with the contemporary issues of terrorism, conflict, kidnapping, and hostage-taking. Best practice dictates that these protocols be observed. That they were not has led to legislators’ introducing such bills as those mandating delayed broadcasts.

No matter how seemingly well meaning, in the Philippine experience, such bills end up covering more than they originally intended. With public support—and such support is likely given the growing outrage over police mishandling of the August 23 crisis as well as the media’s role in it—such bills will take on lives of their own, and are likely to end up imposing greater restrictions on press freedom itself.

The media must oppose any attempt at legislated journalism ethics, which is a patent contradiction in terms, journalism ethics being a matter of voluntary compliance. But the media must also address their own limitations and failings if they are to deserve and to hold the moral high ground when defending their hard-won freedom from government restraint.

We urge our colleagues to resist blaming the police for not having imposed restrictions on them. The self-regulatory regime in which the media function demands that they do not wait to be told what to do, given the basic responsibility to minimize harm. When the situation began to compromise the hostages, the media should have discontinued live coverage, and to delay broadcasting inflammatory statements and footage.

We ask the media to abandon the urge to excuse themselves and to have the good faith to accept the errors—errors likely to have prolonged the crisis last August 23, and worse, to have contributed to the deaths of nine people—that they committed, and from there to relearn the fundamental principles of covering such situations. The first imperative is to assume that any hostage-taker, terrorist, etc., is media-savvy enough—and in fact often count on the media to help further their cause—to monitor TV and radio broadcasts.

That principle was either forgotten, or was never really known, by the three leading networks last Monday, as a consequence of which they aired detailed accounts of police operations including SWAT team deployments, and aired live the arrest of the hostage-taker’s brother which could have triggered the shooting of the hostages. Claims that it did not do so—the hostage taker may have started shooting because he saw the police arresting his brother, or he fired because the police fired first, etc.—are irrelevant and miss the point: given the unpredictability of hostage-taker or terrorist reactions to TV or radio broadcasts, the point is to assume that he or she is monitoring the media and could therefore react to media reportage or commentary in unpredictable ways.

Resistance to government regulation can only be meaningful if the media honor the self-regulatory regime that the constitutional protection to press freedom so clearly demands. A review by the media of the principles involved in that regime, the events of Monday indicate, is called for so that there can be a reasonable certainty that in similar, future crises, media coverage will not make an already bad situation worse—and in furtherance of the core ethical principle of not causing, or, at the very least, minimizing, harm.

30 responses to “Warning to media”

  1. cmfr says:

    [New Post] Warning to media – via #twitoaster httpss://cmfr-phil.org/2010/08/28/warning-…

  2. cmfr says:

    “Warning to Media” -the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on the Aug.23 Manila hostage taking incident.httpss://cmfr-phil.org/2010/08/28/warning-… #fb

    • Nikobaua says:

      RT @cmfr: “Warning to Media” -the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on the Aug.23 Manila hostage taking incident.httpss://ow.ly/url/shorten-url …

    • krisnagera says:

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    • sabriyya says:

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Twitter Trackbacks…

  4. cmfr says:

    Warning to media: By the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) For more information… httpss://cmfr-phil.org/2010/08/28/warning-… #media #journalism

    • johnreiner5 says:

      RT @cmfr: Warning to media: By the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) For more information… httpss://cmfr-phil.org/2010/08/28/warning-… #medi …

    • The_CopyEditor says:

      RT @cmfr: Warning to media: By the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) For more information… httpss://cmfr-phil.org/2010/08/28/warning-… #medi …

    • rowsterr says:

      RT @cmfr: Warning to media: By the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) For more information… httpss://cmfr-phil.org/2010/08/28/warning-… #medi …

    • piggypotamus says:

      @cmfr as a filipino citizen i am VERY proud that you chose to tread the path you did because as of some days ago – there were newsmen who

    • piggypotamus says:

      @cmfr even went so far as to call the filipino news consumers vultures. like we were the reason the media did what it did last monday.

    • piggypotamus says:

      @cmfr thank you for finally talking about RESPONSIBILITY. you are indeed working for the filipino people. mabuhay!!!

    • piggypotamus says:

      @cmfr most everyone has said sorry already.from the president down to the simplest filipino dh in hk -when is the media going to say SORRY?

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  12. cmfr says:

    RT: A Warning to Media-the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on the Aug. 23 hostage-taking httpss://cmfr-phil.org/2010/08/28/warning-… #journalism #fb

    • piggypotamus says:

      @cmfr most everyone has apologized from the prez to individual filipinos. when is the media going to apologize? will it ever?

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  14. regine says:

    what can you say about the proposal of redefining the limitations of philippine media?

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