GMA Network of the Philippines has revised its guidelines on safety and ethics in crisis coverage.
As part of the changes, the new guidelines call on employees to ““assume that police may not be able to handle media or a crowd. Thus we must know when and how to restrain ourselves.”
The guidelines also stipulate a “renewed commitment” to avoid interviewing or talking to hostage takers.
The changes reflect the soul-searching underway in the country’s media industry over its role in the botched rescue of tourists held by a sole gunman on August 23. Media — broadcast in particular — have been heavily criticized for its minute-by-minute coverage of the fiasco and are now the subject of a Senate inquiry.
Investigations show that the hostage taker Rolando Mendoza was watching live coverage of events inside the hijacked bus. Mendoza was also interviewed on radio during the crisis, which police say prevented negotiators from reaching him. In one report, an ABS-CBN journo gave details of the police positions ahead of the failed assault.
GMA should be applauded for taking the high road on this. No life should ever be sacrificed the pursuit of any story. I’d like to see the measures adopted by other major news organizations.
Ultimately, it comes down to cooperation among media agencies. I hope this incident will force an open channel of communication among news executives during times of crisis. We may be competing to get the story out, but ultimately, we’re all in this together and that’s how our audience will remember it.