PRESIDENT AQUINO’S SPEECH AFTER THE TRAGEDY:
With the rest of the Filipino people, I wish to offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims whose lives were lost in the hostage situation at the Quirino Grandstand. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs has conveyed our deep feelings of sorrow to the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China and the people of Hong Kong through Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang. I have tasked Secretaries Soliman and Lim to provide everything necessary for the recovery and return home of the survivors. I have directed the fullest cooperation with the Hong Kong authorities on the part of our officials.
From the onset of this incident, the hostage-taker seemed to not be belligerent, as shown by the release of hostages. These were encouraging signs.
We were going to wait him out. The idea was to let the ground commanders who are the experts in this field handle the operation with minimal interference from people who are less expert.
But the situation deteriorated rapidly when, during the course of the negotiations, he was given the letter of the Ombudsman in which she promised to personally review his case. As he was reading the contents of the letter, while talking to an unknown individual on the phone, he became increasingly agitated.
The presence of his brother also added to the tension.
At this point, he threatened to kill a hostage. The police decided to remove the brother from the scene. As the negotiators were departing, the negotiators were shot at.
Media coverage of his brother being taken into custody further agitated the hostage-taker.
Shots were fired. They seemed to be warning shots, as there was no audible indication of tumult or chaos to show that the hostages were in immediate danger.
Nonetheless, the negotiators tried to reestablish contact the hostage-taker but they were unsuccessful as the cellphone of the hostage-taker was continuously busy. He also refused to answer the throw-phone provided for him by the authorities.
The escape of the driver, combined with his reports that the hostages were being harmed, forced the assault to happen. When the vehicle began to move, and with reports that he had hand grenades, a decision was made to immobilize the vehicle as it would have made the situation even more dangerous.
As we know, the incident tragically ended in the deaths of eight innocent civilians.
We expect more of the facts to come to light and I have ordered Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to thoroughly lead this review.
Media was severly criticized in Philippine Social Media and even in commentary within main stream media. In Social Media specially in twitter several exchanges were observed.
WITHIN A FEW DAYS MEDIA COMPANY ABS-CBN CAME OUT WITH OFFICIAL THIS STATEMENT ON ITS FACEBOOK PAGE:
ABS-CBN STATEMENT ON AUG. 23 HOSTAGE TRAGEDY
by ANC 24/7 on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 3:21pm
Media’s job is to tell the story, but no story is worth even one life.
We will always cooperate with authorities in trying to resolve complex situations like the Aug 23 hostage crisis.
If the government had called for a news blackout, ABS-CBN would have supported it.
We are done with an initial assessment of our coverage and continue to review our policies.
We exercised self-restraint on Monday:
1. We refused to air the hostage taker’s threats live about a 3 pm deadline to avoid fuelling public fear.
2. We refused to air the hostage taker’s interview until after negotiations were finished.
3. We refused to be part of hostage negotiations.
4. All throughout the day and until the first shots were aired, we kept our cameras 400 meters away from the bus, giving us shaky video that viewers complained about. Our teams never crossed the police line.
5. Although we had access to members of the police reaction team, we held back interviews which could compromise their plans and/or location.
6. After the police tried to arrest the hostage taker’s brother, our team physically stepped back to comply with police request.
7. After the assault began, we tried to limit our shots to avoid showing police movements. We stayed with extreme close-ups or wide shots.
8. We immediately complied when police asked us to turn off our lights explaining the grainy shots viewers complained about.
9. We avoided tampering with evidence at crime scene. Instead, we asked Soco to shoot the video instead of entering the bus ourselves.
This wasn’t enough.
We acknowledge airing a report that detailed the position of the police during the assault.
During the arrest of Gregorio Mendoza, we considered pulling away from the coverage but a man was crying for help.
In other countries around the world, governments set the ground rules for situations like this. One network cannot unilaterally declare a news blackout. Press freedom issues take a back seat during situations like this – where the government already has the power to define the terms to media.
We are taking the public’s views to heart. Monday’s tragic events triggered intense soul-searching for us. Such is the irony of a profession that wields so much power but relies entirely on self-doubt to gain — and keep — its credibility.
We ask our broadcast colleagues to join us in an industry review. Let us unite and work together to put in place measures to collectively decide when we stop live coverage in the absence of government presence of mind.
SIMILARLY GMA 7 RELEASED THIS PRESS RELEASE:
GMA News’ statement on its coverage of the bus siege at Quirino Grandstand
Immediately after our live coverage of the hostage taking and its bloody outcome last Monday, we reviewed how we covered the situation.
We are now taking a second look at our existing policies and processes to determine how these can be improved and how we can fill up what is lacking.
At the end of this review, we will come up with a revised set of rules and guidelines to be implemented during situations that pose risks to our personnel and to the public.
We are also open to dialogue with authorities on how we can work together in situations like this in the interest of the safety of the public, especially hostages.
Agad-agad matapos ang aming live coverage ng hostage taking at sa madugong pagwawakas nito noong Lunes, sinimulang suriin ng GMA News ang aming naging paraan ng pagbabalita ng naturang insidente.
Pinag-aaralan naming muli ang kasulukuyang mga patakaran at palakad upang malaman kung paano pa ito mapabubuti at mapunan ang mga kakulangan.
Sa pagtatapos ng pagsusuring ito, bubuo ang GMA News and Public Affairs ng mga bagong patakaran na ipatutupad sa mga coverage na sadyang may bantang panganib sa aming mga news and public affairs coverage teams at maging sa publiko.
Bukas ang GMA News na makipag-dialogo sa mga otoridad upang mapag-usapan ang pinakamabuting paraaan upang mapangalagaan ang kaligtasan ng publiko, lalo ng mga hostage. – GMANews.TV
THE HONG KONG JOURNALIST ASSOCIATION CAME OUT WITH THIS STATEMENT REGARDING THE ISSUE:
Dear President Aquino,
The Hong Kong Journalists Association expresses its deepest condolences to the families of those who died in Manila’s hostage tragedy. We also want to express our appreciation and respect to those who acted bravely and astutely during the long standoff, thus allowing some of the hostages to survive. We are, however, filled with anger and concern over the blame being heaped on the media for allegedly contributing to the tragedy.
The HKJA notes with concern that President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines made the media the scapegoat when he said: “Media coverage of his brother being taken into custody further agitated the hostage-taker…” Using this flimsy excuse, Mr. Aquino said he would consider imposing new restrictions on media coverage should a similar crisis occur.
We have no idea what further restrictions are under consideration but what we are sure of is that President Benigno Aquino’s words were uttered hastily and without careful consideration. Without a thorough investigation such conclusions cannot be taken seriously and the HKJA views the president’s hasty conclusions with grave misgivings.
The role of the media is to tell the world what is happening and what has happened. This is the essence of what the democratic world has come to know and to accept as freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The media’s presence is vital to the preservation of human rights of minorities in any conflict. As in the case of Manila’s killings, nobody can tell if the same tragedy would not have taken place without the presence of the media. What we can be sure of is that without the presence of the media no knowledge of this horrific tragedy would have been known to the outside world.
Moreover, the police force of the Philippines should have known that negotiations were going on between the gunman and his brother, and that this was being telecast. The act of arresting the brother would, clearly, irritate the gunman. Yet the police forcibly wrestled the brother down and handcuffed him, all directly in front of the media.
The police, clearly, had neither strategy nor the necessary know-how to deal with such a situation. With the development of the new media, it is unrealistic to ask the media not to broadcast live in a matter of huge public interest not only to the Filipinos themselves, but also to people in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Proper media arrangements, including a safe area for the media at the scene, in accordance with internationally accepted standards, are of paramount importance. None were forthcoming.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association calls on the Philippines government to refrain from using this incident to introduce harsh measures against the media in order to cover up their incompetence. We will closely monitor the incident and any further deterioration of press freedom in Philippines arising from this tragedy.
With Kind Regards,
Hong Kong Journalists Association
AND TODAY THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER WROTE THE EDITORIAL:
A Black Day for Media -which ended with this statement: “Every journalist knows the adage that no story is worth dying for. TV stations should realize the adage’s corollary meaning: No story is worth putting other people’s lives in danger.”