Thursday, August 26, 2010

ABS-CBN STATEMENT ON AUG. 23 HOSTAGE TRAGEDY

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.