This opinion article has been previously published on Asiancorrespondent.com, August 30, 2010

Here is the Link: http://asiancorrespondent.com/ReadArticle/all-eyes-on-philippine-media.htm

Based on form and content, this article was evaluated by my professor and classmates in our online journalism class. The article was good enough that it was able to generate several comments but, as pointed out in our discussion, the article could have been better. As indicated by my professor, the main drawback of my work was that it lacked research. Since I wrote my article exactly a week after the event happened, my analysis and opinion on the issue could have been stronger, timely, and more relevant  if I had considered the succeeding updates and news reports on the hostage-taking incident.  The links were helpful in providing background for the article.

All eyes on Philippine Media

By Mark Christian Manalang.

Quezon City, Philippines—The date was August 23 when for 12 straight hours all eyes were on hostage-taker Ronaldo Mendoza, his 25 hostages which included 22 Hong Kong nationals, and the Manila Police Department. After the tragic ending that resulted with eight dead hostages, these eyes shifted elsewhere. From this news, it went on to look at the media, the news providers or messengers themselves which made the event known.

The bloody and unprecedented ending of the hostage-taking incident in Manila a week ago has focused all eyes on Philippine media. It is not because media brought and delivered this news to the public but it is because media actually became a part of this news. Media did not just merely report the news, media was clearly in it as their coverage of the hostage crisis had somehow affected its sad and disappointing outcome. Based on its questionable blow-by-blow coverage, media cannot be deemed blameless and unaccountable to some degree as to how the tragic hostage drama ended. In effect, Philippine media has once again come under the microscope.

Philippine media outlets have now been placed under the spotlight instead of being the ones who spotlight the newsworthy events. This spotlight has given media both added publicity and pressure which made their predicament more complex than it already is. So many players like the heavily-criticized Philippine Police, the highly-aggravated Hong Kong officials, the not so responsive Aquino Administration, the outraged and ever sympathetic Chinese community, and the local and international media groups have placed their critical eyes on Philippine media. Having different reasons and motives, all of them have placed close scrutiny on one of the freest media in Asia.

Is this scrutiny necessary? I believe so. The fact that eight lives were lost and many others injured gives these players the right to place careful inspection on media. The fact that media clearly violated protocols in covering sensitive events like the recent hostage-taking permits them to question media’s professionalism and guidelines. The fact that media appeared to focus on getting the scoop and beating the competition grants them the right to probe media’s main purpose for covering the event. The fact that media seemingly made the situation worse indeed validates their right to scrutinize media. This checkup on media because of its recent malpractice is justifiable, however, the blame to be widely or completely placed on media is unacceptable. The inefficiency of the police in handling the whole crisis situation must not be disregarded. But pointing fingers alone would not resolve or change anything as deliberated action and cooperation is also needed. Philippine media groups must prove to their attentive observers through their next moves that they are responsible and worthy of the press freedom that they have and enjoy. They must again work for the respect and trust of these players and understand when media when must step in and back off in crisis situations.

Media is in a delicate situation right now as the door for press freedom abuse has been opened once again. These watchful eyes on media have triggered the government to question the credibility and efficiency of self regulation. The thought of government regulation on media has crept in once again as new laws are being considered to curtail media from covering significant and similar crisis situations. Media institutions, carefully being watched by so many, must regroup, rethink, and reexamine themselves for their integrity and freedom is on the line.

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