June 18, 2008

Speaking of idiots...

"Ang aral po dito laging sinasabi hindi natin puwedeng i-exercise press freedom na malalagay ang [The lesson here is we can't exercise press freedom by putting] reporters or journalists in harm's way, na hawak ng terrorista or criminal elements." (Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon in PDI, June 18, 2008)

(AP Photo by Bullit Marquez, from www.daylife.com)

SO Razon is actually saying that it was Ces and her companions' fault that they got kidnapped?

The same can be said of all those other journalists who have been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, and their counterparts abroad, many of whom have been killed or maimed through the years by covering World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Middle East wars, the current war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and African civil wars. They too asked for it, because they were in "harm's way"?

This is another ignorant, short-sighted comment by a person supposedly in authority who ought to know better. Should we now fault all policemen and women for getting themselves killed on the job?

In the same manner, journalists go where the news is. It is OUR job. Ces and company went to Sulu to pursue a lead. Yes it was dangerous, and they knew this. But if all journalists just stay in the office, what news will the public get? So our front pages and headlines will be like that of Singapore's newspapers...recipes on how to make Chili Crab?! That is stupid!

Some people complain that maybe the Philippines has too much press freedom. Everything is put in the papers, even the brand of panties used by Binay's daughter (this was about a corruption allegation). But think about the time the country had no press freedom. I remember reading the Daily Express when I was young and all it had was press releases disguised as news on what Marcos did for the country. Later on we found out that his regime had been responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances. And he stole billions from the country's coffers. If we had press freedom then, I don't think Marcos would have lasted for 20 years. The citizens would have been protesting his assault on our liberties even much earlier than 1986.

Now that I am in the same profession, and have been in it for the past 15 years, I can say that I am proud to be part of it. It is a profession that tries to inform the public on matters that are important and vital to their lives. And we will keep doing so no matter the cost to us. I too have been in harm's way once, being threatened by powerful people but this didn't deter me from doing my job. If a journalist is afraid to go to the source of the news, talk to dangerous or powerful people, or being in "harm's way" just to get all the details of a brewing story, then he or she should just leave the profession.

(Or become a lifestyle and entertainment writer. No offense to my fellow lifestyle writers but we all know we have it easy, compared to Ces and her kind. We don't have to dodge bullets, only bad food. And yes, admittedly, the public will also get tired reading about terrorism all the time. They need to know where to get the best steak in town.)

One thing's for sure, despite Ces' kidnapping, other journalists will not stop going to Sulu to pursue their own leads and try to interview the Abu Sayyaf. They will keep doing so in the name of our profession and the public they serve. Bless them for going where we cannot.

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