As if to remind the Philippine press and media of the challenges they face during his troubling watch, President Rodrigo Duterte began the new year by urging the owners of ABS-CBN to sell the network. He had earlier threatened to make sure that the House of Representatives majority he controls doesn’t renew its franchise, which expires on March 30 this year. One of his accomplices in that House of ill-repute has in so many words assured him that they will do exactly that.
The kidnapping of ABS-CBN anchor Ces Drilon has again raised and underscored a number of professional and ethical issues in Philippine journalism practice.
The professional issues certainly include the need for media organizations to adopt guidelines in the coverage of crisis and conflict situations. As a companion to those guidelines, safety training for those likely to be covering crisis and conflict situations has also become more and more urgent.
The Arroyo regime is carrying on as if it were business as usual, despite the basement level approval ratings of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself as well as her entire Cabinet, the uproar over the arrest of media people last Thursday, and the regime’s imposition of a curfew in metro Manila and environs—and oh yes, the November 29 Peninsula incident itself.
The arrest of media people, continuing police harassment of TV network ABS-CBN, and the curfew were themselves indicative of regime resistance to any change in its policies and mindset. Despite what amounted to a policy statement over the weekend and before she left for Europe—“the media are not our enemy” and “don’t rile the media unnecessarily”—the police, for example, seem determined to intimidate (not “rile,” which means to annoy) the media, anyway.