MANILA, Philippines --The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a group of Filipino mass media practitioners, cautions government against filing charges, or even attributing criminal liability to, journalists over the bloody August 23 hostage-taking incident in Manila that killed several tourists from Hong Kong and the hostage-taker himself.
Philippine President Benigno C. Aquino III said Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, the recently-retired national police chief and journalists are among more than a dozen people who could be charged for last month's disastrous hostage rescue in which eight Hong Kong tourists died.
Saying the government sanction over some members of the Philippine media who allegedly went overboard covering the hostage crisis will set a terrible precedent that shall dangle like Damocles’ sword over the head of media whenever they strive to fulfill their duties, the media organization brazes itself against all possible government action that would imperil the people's right to know.
In a press statement, NUJP said, “Philippine media have, by and large, acknowledged these lapses and have begun discussing ways to individually and collectively ensure that more care and sensitivity are taken in future coverage of similar delicate situations.”
The statement also cited that several media outfits and networks have made concrete corrective measures like revising or strengthening guidelines on coverage of similar incidents.
“These lapses were committed in the course of media’s fulfilling their duty to inform the people of an event of vital public interest. To equate these lapses in judgment with criminal liability and hauling journalists to court and threatening imprisonment, are making media the scapegoat for what essentially was government incompetence on all levels,” NUJP said.
The tri-media followed closely the hostage-taking incident, some of them risking their limbs, and even their career, in trying to get a blow-by-blow coverage of the crisis that dragged up to the next day on August 24. Police action backfired, though.
An investigation on the crisis by the Department of Justice yielded that even the coverage went overboard that government is contemplating at filing charges against people in government and some members of the Philippine media.
Aquino will decide next week on the raps to be filed after government lawyers submit recommendations. # LVRamo