It was like a movie, but unlike movies that everything ends up only on the silverscreen, the hostage drama was a very sad day for the Philippines as the country took the spotlight once again in a very negative fashion.
The hostage-drama yesterday in Quirino Grandstand in Manila ended in a bloody carnage former police officer Rolando Mendoza took a bus full of Chinese tourist and ended up with bullets all over his body. The decorated police officer took bullets after a breakdown in negotiations with police officers handling the situation with some hostage victims dead and others wounded. Everything seen by the whole world as cameras of media outfits were all focused on the situation and media men all hungry to get the most precious shots.
But questions were raised after that fateful day on how the media handled the situation as reporting the event: has the media gone overboard on its covering the situation and the police has not exerted enough effort for the media not to swoop unto the crisis like hungry vultures to the detriment of police operations?
TV stations were all tuning in while every firing of bullets was covered on all angles. When Rolando Mendoza was shot, cameras of TV stations (especially ABS-CBN) focused on the carcass of the man hanging on the small opening of the bus door with all the people around the world watching, adult and children alike. As the suspect was killed by authorities, media people swooped in to get near the bus and get precious shots making the situation like a market place.
Again, has the media gone overboard of televising the situation live with all the kids watching? Has the media not exerted due prudence to shy away its camera on the situation where violence and killing took the primetime and partly may have jeopardized the police operation? Has TV stations not really practiced enough regulation by broadcasting the situation live with all the violence, exchange of bullets and the killing of the suspect with his body hanging bathing in blood all flashed on household televisions?
Aside from the horror that was brought by the live feed that television networks shown on TV, they had also mostly added to the failure of the operation of the ill-equipped police as their live feed certainly gave the suspect the much-needed information against his enemies.
Frederic Gallois who led the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group of France and freed 173 passengers and crew from a plane that was hijacked by four Algerian Islamists, in 1994 and all suspects ended dead, said that the police officers were ill-trained. On the other hand, John Harrison, a homeland security analyst from the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore said that the live media coverage was mistake #1.
“The fact that there was essentially live video was mistake No. 1.”
Unfortunately, both ABS-CBN and GMA7 networks defended themselves yesterday saying that did follow the code of conduct in reporting the hostage drama and practiced enough prudence.; and they are blaming the police for not imposing enough measures on how to deal with the media. In the absence of these measure, giant TV networks should have regulated themselves and not blame others, as they only show that they are close to being opportunists in the absence of regulation from authorities. In their denials last night, of course, the people who were fed with live bloodbath and the suspect who followed the video coverage inside the bus know otherwise.
I think, TV stations had gone overboard all for the sake of taking a scoop, taking those precious shots, taking those exclusive reports all forgetting that what they are covering are flashed live into television screens on millions of households. Violence and carnage was offered sizzling hot, raw and unedited on our dinner plates last night, again for me, with many media covering the crisis not practicing enough prudence.
And they are to partly blame for the death of some of the hostages; while the videos they covered live will remain forever, those wasted lives will never be brought back to life.