KBP: Media should not be negotiators
(Continuation of PCIJ’s report on why the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas slapped P30,000 fines on ABS-CBN, TV5 and Radio Mindanao Network for violating the broadcast code in their coverage of the 2010 Luneta hostage-taking crisis.)
The KBP Board of Directors had ordered the Standards Authority to conduct an investigation into the coverage of the hostage-taking incident on Aug. 31, 2010, or a week after the incident.
By Sept. 24, 2010, the Standards Authority had already farmed out notices of hearings to officials and legal representatives of ABS-CBN, ABC-5, and RMN.
The KBP ordered RMN and its anchors Erwin Tulfo and Michael Rogas to explain why administrative sanctions should not be imposed on them for violating Section 1, Article 6 of the Broadcast Code. Tulfo is also a reporter and anchor of ABC-5, which is now known as TV5.
Section 1 states: “The coverage of crimes in progress or crisis situations, such as hostage-taking or kidnapping, shall not put lives in greater danger than 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.”
The KBP was particularly concerned with the 40-minute phone interview conducted by Rogas with former policeman Rolando Mendoza just minutes before the latter started shooting. Rogas has been accused of tying up the phone line with Mendoza, preventing police negotiators from getting through to the hostage-taker.
But the radio network argued that it was its “sworn duty to bring and inform the public all sides and angles of the hostage-taking event as it unfolded.” Moreover, RMN officials insisted that Mendoza was using several other phone lines to contact other people.
RMN also seemed to blame the live TV coverage of the arrest of Mendoza’s brother Gregorio for the hostage-taker’s sudden angry outburst, which led to the shooting of hostages.
In a position paper RMN submitted to the Standards Authority on Oct. 19, 2010, RMN officials said the network “was not in control of the coverage being shown on television inside the tourist bus where (the hostage-taker) witnessed the MPD’s (Manila Police District) arrest of his brother, which caused Captain Mendoza to get infuriated.”
After reviewing audiotapes and transcripts of the interview, however, the KBP Standards Authority ruled that the RMN interview was “wanting of the high degree of caution and restraint demanded by the broadcast code.”
The interview, KBP said, “only created a situation which effectively deprived the police authorities of the opportunity to deal solely and continuously with the hostage-taker on a one-on-one basis.”
“Much time was, in fact, wasted by the live interview which could have otherwise been used by the police negotiators to convince Mendoza to surrender peacefully and seek redress of his grievances within the prescribed legal parameters,” the KBP decision stated.
KBP stressed that media broadcasters should refrain from trying to negotiate with hostage-takers, and leave matters like these to professionals. Media, it said, “must accept the fact that their only role in a hostage-taking incident is to cover and report on the event, and not to become principal or supporting actors in the resolution.” (To be continued)
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