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Philippine National Police-Media Protocol during a Crisis Situation
The Philippine government and its people should humbly accept that there are errors committed during the August 23, 2010 Luneta incident, where 8 Hongkong nationals wasted their lives due to the Senior Inspector Rogelio Mendoza's hostage taking. The two sides of the coin put the police and the media as part of those who are to blame because the negotiation failed. Is it the leniency of the SWAT or the sensationalism of the media?
After seven months, the Hongkong's coroner's court has issued their findings (MArch 24, 2011) as to why the negotiation process led to the death of 8 Hongkong nationals, to wit:
Filipino authorities did not meet the hostage-taker’s demands quickly.
Bungled rescue operations also delayed medical treatment for two victims who might have been saved.
Filipino officials aggravated negotiations by failing to block media coverage of the arrest of the gunman’s brother, which outraged the suspect.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, chair of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC),however, contested the decision as speculative.
De Lima admitted she is unsure how families of the victims could file civil suits against the Philippine officials found liable for the bungled police rescue.
She also don't know if they could file those suits against a foreign government under their legal system or will they have to go to another forum like an international tribunal perhaps to pursue such remedies.
The March 25, 2011 Meet Up of Tri Media and PNP-COPs in Camarines Sur
Just after releasing the result, the Philippine National Police in the province with the Tri-Media (Radio, television and print) conducted the seminar tackling the role of police authorities and the media during a crisis, mostly citing the Luneta hostage-taking that catapulted the repercussions into the international scene.
Retired PNP Chief Lieutenant Colonel Eliciaz Bron in the province served as the lone speaker wherein he tackled the role of the police and the media when engaged in a hostage situation.
What is the role of media when faced with a crisis situation,like hostage-taking, terrorism, etc.? How can the police authorities refrain the media from releasing publicly the action plans of the law enforcers that should be kept secret from the criminals?
After a two-hour discussion on the topic of Media Protocol during a Crisis Situation, the open forum emphasizes on the role of media on getting scoop of the incident.
The CMFR (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility) released a manual citing Crisis Management Principles called Ethics Manual: A Values Approach to News & Media Ethics.
Although it's not available to all media outlet, police officers promised to reproduce it and give copies to every radio stations in the province in order for all radio personalities to know their limitations during crisis reporting.
PNP PRO 5 and the Local Tri-Media in Bicol Mutually and Voluntary Agreed Actions to be Observed Effectively and Efficiently during CRISIS MANAGEMENT
Some pointers to remember when reporting a very delicate incident should be noted by media practitioners to avoid the incident that happened on August 23, 2010.
The seminar taught us a thing or two. There are limitations on how you can report an incident without aggravating the scene, especially during hostage situation.
Those who want to be part of the press should take the following things into consideration:
Report immediately to law enforcers the occurrence of hostage/critical incident that was brought to your attention.
Look for the designated spokesperson upon arrival at the scene of the crime. If none, stay at the police designated media broadcast area (outside the police line).
Always put in mind personal safety. If no police line has been established yet, look for a safe place and refrain from making moves that may aggravate the situation.
Always assume the terrorists, gunmen, hostage takers, etc. have access to the reporting (radio, television, etc.) live coverage, blow by blow account is discouraged except for the following: news flash breaking news, regular report from the designated PNP spokesperson.
During the coverage, the following are encouraged:
Before releasing information, seriously weight benefits to the public at against the potential harm the information may cause
Avoid inflammatory catchwords and phrases.
Avoid making telephone calls to interview terrorists, gunmen hostage takers etc.
Do not report police operation plans to include assault plan, weapons, tactics and position of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and similar
Do not report any intercepted information from police communication.
Explain to the listening public why certain information is being withheld by the police authorities.
These pointers are part of the module that will be given to the local chapter of tri-media regarding Crisis Situation Reporting.
During my college years, I've been part of the media as radio personality. I always observe the proper ethics in reporting the news I've gathered. I avoid news sensationalism or expounding too much in order to deliver the news factually.
Some media men are always wanting to get the scoop, without thinking what will be the repercussion if they want to compete with the investigation of the police authorities.
Because of the shame that the hostage-taking brought in the country, the PNP and the local media decided to push through the seminar to re-orient the press about their roles and limitations when reporting an incident that can brought a nation to shame.
That we shouldn't want to happen again.
To be a member of tri-media, you should have a degree on Communications. Yet, in the local media branch, some non-communication graduates are accepted due to the scarcity of graduates braving themselves to stay in the rural and sub-urban areas of the province. Most of the graduates flock to the bigger networks in popular cities. (Check out the book, Control Room, in order for you to understand the role of media in the society of this world.)
It has been tackled by the speaker that provincial media men tend to cling to politicians for support, due to delayed salaries that can't support the needs of their families. The media can work independently, but government agencies, like the police authorities can never exists without tapping the help of the media for public information about their programs and activities.