Tweeting Away

It Turns Out, I Am (Slightly) Learning From Ethics Class

I’m watching the events at Fort Bonifacio as they’re unfolding and I can’t help but feel a sense of anxiety at the current state of things. By “state of things”, I don’t necessarily mean the recently proclaimed State of Emergency, nor am I referring to the apparent “internal conflict” within the Philippine Marines, although of course I am also quite bothered by these occurrences. What I’m most bothered with at the moment, however, is how the media are handling these situations, or any situation for that matter. As I’m writing this my television screen relays images of a crowd of media men “pestering”, the term used by RG Cruz, himself a reporter for ANC, anybody who seems to have a significant role or relation to the news of General Miranda being relieved of his position and the issues surrounding it. The newly appointed commandant, Gen Allaga, showed obvious irritation at how the media were apparently preventing them, the marines, from doing their duties, because the media kept beleaguering them for information.

I understand and appreciate the value of a free press. As a daughter whose parents lived through Martial Law, I understand how fortunate my generation is because we are constantly informed of the events happening both in our country and in the rest of the world. As a communications student, I know how important it is to have the opportunity and the freedom to tell others about my thoughts and ideas, as I am doing so now. I wonder, however, if the Filipino people, particularly those in the media, are using this freedom with the appropriate respect and responsibility that should come with it.

Earlier a certain Col. Segumalian was seen on live television lashing out in anger, on what and on whom exactly I couldn’t tell. It seemed to me, however, that his sudden outburst was in one way or another also triggered by the hoard of media men pouncing on him like a pack of angry wolves, voracious for information, uncaring for the damage and disturbance they were causing to the procedures that were supposed to take place at the time, as Gen. Allaga had complained about.

I understand the necessity of reporting to the people relevant events, preferably as they are happening. And on the one hand, I admire the Philippine media for their avid desire to report all relevant events and to obtain all the significant information they can for the Filipino people, but there must be something amiss when, in their desire to report these events, the media’s presence actually begins to affect what is happening, and not in a good way. Where do you draw the line between responsible and abusive reporting? Naturally media people have a responsibility to their audience, because reporters, journalists, broadcasters, and so on, serve as windows to important news for most people. They also have a responsibility to their networks, because no one will watch a news program that doesn’t deliver current and “hot” news. But they too have a responsibility towards those whom they are reporting about, and whom they are constantly hounding for information. It seems that in the process many people in the media begin to forget that the people they are asking information from are actually human beings, who like anyone else deserve respect, however sinister or evil or corrupt they may be.

When Timothy Go, a Filipino broadcaster for a Singaporean news channel was recently interviewed by Cito Beltran, he mentioned that “ambush interviews” with people in the government are unheard of in Singapore. Questions are usually even “screened” by the interviewees before the actual interview starts. Though I am most certainly not comfortable with such restrictions, neither am I comfortable with the current practice of media people in the Philippines, who seem to do whatever it is that they can to acquire information, regardless of the consequences, and always using the concept of “press freedom” to their defense, without remembering that freedom of any kind always connotes a certain responsibility.

So this is why we need ethics, morals, values. Since freshman year we’ve been taught the importance of being ethical, not just because it’s the “Christian” way to be, but more importantly because it’s the right thing to be. I’m not condemning the Philippine media (and I think I would still prefer them over that of Singapore or whatever gravely restricted media practitioners out there), but I think that, like us college students, it wouldn’t hurt if a few ethics classes would be in order for them.

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