Senators oppose House proposal to impose news blackout during crisis situations

August 26, 2010 11:23 am 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Aug. 25 –- Saying that law enforcers have the power to limit the media coverage of sensitive incidents like hostage-taking, several senators expressed on Wednesday their opposition to a proposal in the House of Representatives to impose news blackout during crisis situations.

”It is no longer necessary. All you have to do is to put a cordon. You can tell the media to stay at this distance and not interfere with the operational aspect of the event,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said.

Senator Loren Legarda, a former journalist, said there is no need to craft a law as being proposed by Congressmen Juan Edgardo Angara and Gabriel Luis Quisumbing.

”There is no need to enact a law. It could have been just a request. Whoever on top of things like chief negotiator can do the request to media owners to have news blackout,” she said.

Legarda said the authorities could have requested a news blackout during last Monday’s hostage-taking perpetrated by former Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, specially when his brother was being stopped by police from approaching Mendoza who seized a bus with 25 people, including foreign tourists from Hong Kong, on board.

”The enactment of the law takes months, if not years, a policy or strategy in negotiation could be used to control media,” Legarda said.

Senator Sergio Osmena III said the proposal requires careful study since the people also need information.

Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. suggested that the media and the authorities can make an agreement on what to do every time there is a crisis situation.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said there is nothing wrong for the media to cover sensitive police operations for as long as these are being handled carefully by the authorities in charge of the situation.

In Monday's hostage-taking, Sotto noted that the responding police forces had done their best but the lack of necessary equipment had led to their failure to save the lives of eight tourists from Hong Kong.

The hostage-taker himself was killed during the final police assault on the hijacked tourist bus. (PNA)

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