SOUTHERN COMFORT: Transparency according to SMI

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 September) — Besieged and wanting of channels to air and defend its project, mining giant Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) has embarked on an elaborate media campaign, promising transparency and asking “balanced reporting” from the press.

John Arnaldo, former Shell PR man, is now apparently the new face of SMI as all information and interviews are to be channeled and approved by him and apparently only by him.

During the last few months, SMI has been organizing media tours, bringing in columnists and reporters from major daily news and holding press briefings.

Its country president, Mark Williams, a media-shy blasting engineer, has suddenly become accessible and being quoted by select members of the press.  But, unfortunately, not for the local media here.

I have no trouble with Williams, whom I often meet way past deadlines of most print and broadcast media.

Despite us sharing some information, I never used any of them as these were privileged communications and shared under assumptions that these were not for public consumption.

Why, Williams even once offered a company-sponsored trip to one of its mines in Australia to see how Xstrata Plc is supposed to be practicing safe methods that meet all international mining standards.

But when managers of the company’s long line of departments are barred from giving interviews and statements to the local press even if they are more than willing to answer questions from the crowd during public consultations, SMI’s avowed policy of transparency becomes a mantra for managing information.

Information, when managed, becomes outright propaganda.

It lacks spontaneity.

It is short of sincerity.

When you choose to answer questions at your own volition and at your own chosen time, it smacks of lack of confidence and authority.

When you give motherhood statements to specific queries from the press, you expose your ignorance over the issue or just feigning one.

Again, that’s not transparency.

When you asked for balanced reporting and lecture the press how balanced reporting should go, you are virtually dictating how the press should cover your story.

Unfortunately for the head of the corporate communications affair of SMI, while his image is slowly becoming the interface of the company’s corporate logo, he has become a willing and zealous tool of SMI’s bid to manage information, not to be transparent and open to the press at all. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for