Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hello, Gabby?

What's next, Palace officials calling media organizations to fire journalists not following "standards set by the government"?

A top government official called up an ABS-CBN executive at the height of the Marines standoff at Fort Bonifacio on February 26, asking that the network not to cover the ongoing news event, ABS-CBN News chief Maria Ressa told a Senate inquiry on today.

Ressa told the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights that the official talked briefly to the executive, telling him not to air the event. She said ABS-CBN turned down the request of the Palace official.

For a full report of Maria's testimony, click here.

Hmmm. Why wasn't I surprised to learn that?

I suddenly remembered what Manolo Quezon said in a press conference two days after Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation 1017 (which was lifted on March 3). "The Achilles heel of media are the owners of publications, TV, and radio stations. So, you have to apply pressure on your owners not to fold. The first thing the Palace does is to talk to the owners," Manolo said.

Was Gabby (the nickname of ABS-CBN's president Eugenio Gabriel Lopez III) the "executive" Maria was talking about? We don't know yet. But the fact that someone from the administration called the network requesting it to stop its coverage on an otherwise legitimate news item is clearly an attempt to stifle media to follow "government standards." I personally watched ANC's coverage, and from what I saw, the coverage was fair and balanced. Sometimes, I even think that ANC is trying too hard to get the government's side on an issue, lest be accused again of having an anti-Arroyo bias. Well, that was just my impression sometimes.

Going back to the issue, I can't stop laughing about how certain officials in MalacaƱang became journalists overnight, threatening the press and giving unsolicited advice on what to cover or not. If the Palace continues this way, they should probably begin teaching journalism courses as a sideline. With Pres. Arroyo as the dean.

Arroyo's war against the "reckless" media is not yet over.

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