Let me focus this blog on the journalists since we bloggers may be counted as “one of them” already…
Why are they being killed in record numbers today?
I believe this phenomenon is a function of two things, namely:
1. The journalists are getting reckless. In the Philippines, there are two things that are not protected by the constitutional right to free speech. One is pornography, the other libelous (or slanderous) remarks.
Some journalists use their venues to malign and viciously attack characters, taking advantage of our “slap on the wrist” libel laws (though you can ask for a lot of damages) and our slow-grinding justice system (believe me, you’ll be frustrated just how terribly slow it can be). Also, choose your words wisely and you can beat our libel laws but deliver the same malicious message to the public about someone.
I think that some journalists have styled their operations akin to “showbiz” or “entertainment” journalists. You simply cannot do that in serious matter, especially when the targets can retaliate in a major way, rather that just cry and issue counterstatements or denials.
Whoever said that “Sticks and stones…” quote may not have experienced having their persons or reputations savagely attacked in the airwaves or in print. Launching such an attack will surely be taken as an act of war. And with the justice system here, these recipients of such bad publicity may resort to taking the law into their hands. Some of them already did.
Did you know that if you’re a police officer here, you get an instant “show cause” memo the moment your name gets mentioned in any one of the tabloids? In the Philippine National Police, get you’re name into these columns, you are already presumed guilty until proven innocent. Believe me, I know, for this is first hand information.
Also, if you’re a government official, any bad press you get is enough to trigger an Ombudsman investigation. If the Office of the Ombudsman accepts anonymous letters, what more the words journalists spew out?
Moreover, I’ve seen the demeanor of some hosts of this “tele-entrapment” shows prevalent now. When they don’t have anything anomalous to report, they stir something up by provoking fights with security guards. When these guards fight back, they use the law pounce of these legally defenseless ones. How low can you go? Pick on someone your own size…
To these journalists, Sun Tsu said, “Know your enemy and know yourself.” Those who managed to get themselves killed apparently did not listen to this golden advise. Of course they can always say,”if I’m killed, you know who did it.” Really? And if we do know, you’re still dead and your family suffers your loss…
Just remember this: Walk and talk like you’re untouchable and someone is bound to test your arrogance… and succeed.
2. There is a perceived lack of effectiveness in our police. While indeed, the actual killers have been apprehended, their masterminds have been elusive. Also, I think the police are less visible now than with the last police chief.
With less police visibility, there will be a perception that you can get away with murder. And that’s how this killers and their employer’s think.
With these two factors, I believe the solution is two-fold:
1. While the government cannot regulate journalists for obvious constitutional reasons, the journalists themselves should regulate their own ranks. They have to draw the line at some point, a balance between delivering the truth and merely assassinating characters.
If you’re a reporter, stick to reporting. There is a phenomenon here that even reporters already inject opinions into their reports. Their editors should be vigilant of this.
If you want to comment on the news, make it clear from the very start that it is merely your opinion. If you can’t but still want to express your opinion, just blog, get a column or a talk show. But blogging is the most accessible for you. Of course libelous remarks are easier proven in print (even e-print) than in radio. Just be mindful of that so pick your words very carefully.
Also, try to practice some professionalism in your trade. Treat every person the way you want to be treated. You know, there is a reason why The Golden Rule is called golden. (No, it is not the rule that says: “He who has gold, rules!”)
2. To the law enforcers, be visible and erase this perception that you can get away with murder these days. But do not resort to mindless arrests because we will skin you alive in court and before your superiors when you loose your badges and get thrown in jail with the ones you put there.
My two cents on the matter.