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Killing the media

There’s been no lack of effort to highlight “media killings” in the media. Periodically, we are subjected to stories about another media practitioner ambushed, gunned down (sometimes in the radio station itself) or even shot in front of his or her children.

There’s certainly been no lack of outrage about these deaths, including the 32 media men and women killed in the Maguindanao massacre in 2009.

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But why, media people ask, has it been so difficult to sustain  public anger over the killing of media people? Given how everyone agrees about the importance and necessity of a free and unfettered media in the life of our democracy, why is it that the killing of media folk still continues? (Six journalists have been killed since P-Noy took office last year.)

Those were some questions raised during Media Nation 8, the annual “talk fest” that gathers media people of all stripes and inclinations to discuss issues that bedevil the profession and alert the community to developments (like new media and Wikileaks) that have an impact on our work.

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A total of 80 media practitioners took part in Media Nation 8 over the weekend held at the Marco Polo Hotel in Cebu. This wasn’t just the first time the gathering was held outside Luzon, it was also marked by the greater number of provincial journalists attending, a development that brought a new dimension to the discussions, a greater awareness of the special risks inherent in the work of provincial journalists who make up the bulk of the victims.

Ed Lingao of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism noted that there have been 180 “media killings” since 1986, with 121 described as “in the line of duty,” that is, it was their work as media professionals that led to the victims’ deaths, as contrasted perhaps with media men or women killed as a result of, say, a land dispute or an extra-marital affair. Complicating matters is the definition of a “media person.” A great number of those killed were “block timers,” commentators who buy air time in provincial radio stations and engage in vitriolic attacks on politicians, usually the political opponents of their sponsors.

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The distinctions being made drew heated responses. “Those block timers were among the most courageous opponents of martial law,” reminded Inday Espina Varona of ABS-CBN and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

And even if they were acting as paid mouthpieces or attack dogs, others pointed out, it was still their media work that put them in the line of fire. “Journalists enjoy special protections in our society,” pointed out Vince Lazatin of the Transparency and Accountability Network, “and because of the nature of their work, they work in a bubble that is usually respected by most parties.”

Still, part of the discussions centered on the lack of professionalism and the absence of journalistic ethics among many journalists, a factor which may explain the lack of credibility of journalist-victims and of journalists in general. Which may also explain the lack of sympathy among members of the public, who at the same time already labor under the onus of “extrajudicial killings” that are taking place.

One other reason, said Jules Benitez of Minda News, is that the media have failed to communicate the bigger ramifications of every media killing. “This is not just an individual battle or an isolated killing,” he pointed out. “We need to look at it from a larger context—the killing of truth, the death of freedom.”

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Readers may remember the Gulfin family of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, who were supposed to be deported to the Philippines as illegal immigrants, including their youngest son Miguel who was brought to the United States as a child and has not known any other home.

A week before their scheduled departure last Sept. 30, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) granted Carmelo and Aurelia Gulfin and Miguel a one-year reprieve “to afford them time to legalize their status,” wrote Edmund Silvestre, reporter for the Filipino Reporter.

The ICE decision was released Sept. 22 in a letter signed by John Tsoukaris, field office director of ICE Newark, N.J.

Tsoukaris’ letter was in response to the application for deferred action status filed by the Gulfins’ lawyer, J.T.S. Mallonga of Abad Constancio & Mallonga and the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Mallonga said the latest development is “a big victory” for the Gulfins and their numerous supporters. But more is needed to be done such as having the ICE join the Gulfins in joint motion to reopen their old deportation case so that a relief can be introduced.

“It’s easier said than done, but we have to try,” Mallonga said.

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An iPad 2 will go to a lucky participant in the latest installment of FPTI’s (Forecasting and Planning Technologies, Inc.) performance management series tomorrow, Oct. 5 (1 p.m.-5 p.m.) at the Bahia Room of Hotel Intercontinental Makati.

This special discovery session on the company’s latest gallery of business applications and mobile analytics are directed at middle managers and executives from IT, MIS, finance, accounting, sales and marketing, distribution and warehouse departments. Attendees will be provided unique and innovative business solutions critical in measuring an organization’s performance in the achievement of their sales, distribution and financial goals.

Among the afternoon’s speakers are FPTI president and chief executive officer Lofreda “Dada” Del Carmen and Gian Amurao, FPTI director for business development.

For inquiries and reservations call: 8971435 local 121 / 8995834 or go to fpti.com.ph/ spte/registration.aspx for free registration.

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TAGS: maguindanao massacre, Media, Media killings, NUJP, PCIJ
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