MANILA, Philippines - Had the government implemented a news blackout of the dramatic hostage crisis on Monday, it may have ended worse, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas said.
In an interview with Umagang Kay Ganda's Punto por Punto, KBP National President Herman Basbaño said “news blackout is not in our vocabulary anymore.”
Had there been one, different thoughts would be running in the minds of viewers, he said.
“Their conclusion would have been worse…They may even think that the hostages died in the hands of the police themselves,” he said.
Many cases remain unresolved until now because of news blackouts in the past, he said.
He cited for example the news blackout at the time of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr.’s assassination. The public would have known by now the truth behind his death, he said.
Some quarters are blaming the media for jeopardizing police operations during Monday’s incident, which led to the deaths of 8 Hong Kong residents and the gunman himself.
The hostage-taker, former Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, opened fire after allegedly seeing on television how police apprehended his brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza.
Immediately after the incident, Cebu Rep. Luis Quisumbing filed House Bill No. 2737 that proposes a news blackout during a hostage crisis.
In an interview with ANC, Quisumbing clarified the prohibition only covers the movements of military or police assets during such situations.
“This is not an issue of censorship, it’s more of public safety,” he said.
During the Punto Por Punto program, Manila 5th District Rep. Amado Bagatsing also said “guidelines must be revisited [in terms of covering such incidents].”
“There is no problem in covering, but when you’re in the shoes of the hostage-taker, even if you’re not on the defensive, you would still want to protect yourself [especially after seeing the live footages],” he said.
Assuming however that there was no live coverage, the hostage-taker still had a “vantage position,” Basbaño said.
“The problem is not the media coverage, but the mismanagement of the crisis. From the start, there was already a problem in controlling the crowd, including the members of the media,” he said.
The work of the media is to cover everything it sees and hears, he said.
“Lahat naman tayo, we cover everything, but we’re also willing to adjust [had there been better crisis management],” he said.
Basbaño admitted however there are “guidelines” in covering such incidents. He said KBP will immediately start implementing crisis coverage workshops.