Friday, February 6, 2009

Kidnappings, embargos, and media hypocrisy

Exhibit A:
Last June, Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Sulu kidnapped ABS-CBN's star anchor Ces Drilon, along with two cameramen and a university professor. But the big story didn't come out in any of the day's papers-- ABS-CBN, in the interest of protecting one of their own, applied a self-imposed embargo on information of the kidnappings, and quietly called on other media outfits to do the same, “primarily for the security and safety of Ces and her companions". They obliged. You may remember, I blogged about this. They didn't want a media situation that the kidnappers could take advantage of.

Exhibit B:
Three weeks ago, there was another kidnapping, this time of three foreign workers of the International Red Cross (ICRC). Again by Abu Sayyaf gunmen, and practically in the same town. There was no self-imposed media embargo this time, and no indication that the idea was even considered.

Going a step further, last Wednesday The Inquirer splashed in their front page headline the kidnappers' outrageous demand to speak to the Vice President of the Philippines, along with a bunch of other important dignitaries. "Abus want Noli in talks". The kidnappers made a phone call straight to The Inquirer, who apparently has no problem being their tool. This comes despite the government's attempts to control the flow of information. It boxes the government into a difficult situation where they must respond, and it gives the upper hand in negotiations to the kidnappers.

So, the Abu Sayyaf is communicating their demands directly to the public through the media. Isn't this exactly an example of a media situation that the kidnappers are taking advantage of? The kind of situation the media embargo was supposed to prevent in the case of Ces Drilon?

So what gives?
The very reason I blogged about the news embargo back in June was that I knew the media was holding itself up to a standard it couldn't maintain-- there would hardly be any discretion shown if the person kidnapped was not one of their own. That's called hypocrisy. The false representation of holding beliefs and virtues that one does not actually possess. The media is lucky the public is too jaded to hold them accountable.