SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Warmongers in media

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 October) – Not content with their ignorance of the real situation in Mindanao, past and present, certain sections of the media in Manila have served as propaganda arms of groups in and out of government that are eager to see the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front collapse.

Shame on these warmongers disguised as journalists, who are exploiting the death of 19 soldiers in Basilan as justification for their not so subtle agenda. Instead of wearing formal suits before the camera, why don’t they don fatigues and boots so the public may know their stand even before they say a single word?

As I’ve said in a previous column, “The nation should grieve the death of its soldiers. But the media will do a great disservice if it allows its portrayal of such grief to further inflame public passion to justify a resort to arms by the state.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what’s unfolding before the unwary viewers many of whom tend to idolize these news readers. I have lost count of the number of interviews they have had with ousted president Joseph Estrada on why government should launch an all-out war against the MILF. And I can’t grasp until now why they continue to glorify the saber-rattling of a convicted plunderer.

Compounding the problem is the general tendency of reporters to adopt as their own any label the military attaches to the rebel units they are targeting – lawless, rogue, lost command, breakaway. It has never crossed their minds that these pejorative terms are mainly intended to justify the ongoing offensive even if it would mean bringing the peace process to the brink of collapse. By accepting these terms without a critical second look they may have unwittingly allowed themselves to become tools of a possible plot to sabotage peace efforts in Mindanao.

Has any reporter bothered to ask how the military will actually distinguish the “lawless,” the “rogue,” the “lost command,” and the “breakaway” from those who are not?

The problem is these labels are being applied interchangeably and so loosely, and there’s no way for media much less the ordinary people to validate these categorizations. Worse, media has abetted the simplification of the Al Barka incident and of the ongoing siege in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay into an issue of law enforcement and exacting retributive justice. The peace process framework has been blurred, even cast aside, by focusing on the personal grief of the loved ones of the slain soldiers.

With this kind of superficial reportage who can blame those protesters in Marawi City for believing that media is allowing itself to be used by the spoilers of peace? Who can blame them for thinking that that October 20 text poll conducted by a TV network was actually a declaration of war?

In times when public passion runs high and threatens to create, if not worsen, animosities, media should be the first institution to learn the value of prudence. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])