Philippine President Aquino commented recently that Filipino journalists are being killed because they are irresponsible.
In April this year, the President also made a similar comment. A Manila Times report stated that in answer to Ed Henry of Fox News —during his joint press conference with US President Barack Obama on April 28, 2014 — Aquino made a comment which implied that he doesn’t care about the killing of Filipino journalists.
He likewise used words that betrayed his attitude towards the murder of journalists. He implied that some of them deserved to die and that some of the killings were not related to the work of the victims as reporters.
The Committee for Media Freedom and Responsibility had earlier reported that “excluding the Maguindanao massacre, Aquino’s presidency has the highest average number of journalists killed per year compared to past presidencies since 1986.” CMFR said that as per its count, “22 journalists have been killed because of their work since Aquino became President in 2010.”
If these reports are accurate, the President would deserve the condemnation aired against him by journalists all over the world.
But what is most deplorable is his most recent remark that Filipino reporters are being killed because they are irresponsible. We do not know if he has a solid basis for his statement.
But even granting without admitting that Filipino reporters are irresponsible, we view President Aquino’s statement as equally irresponsible. Because the statement came from the highest official of the Philippines, many people may believe it. This could further embolden the enemies of press freedom to shoot Filipino journalists.
We never expected the President to make such a totally irresponsible utterance. His martyred father, Senator Benigno Aquino II, was a journalist before he ventured into politics. Because of this, we thought that he has a soft spot in his heart for journalists.
With all his unsavory remarks about reporters, he may go down in history as the only President who looks at journalists as if they are fair game.
Reporters do not deserve to be killed although there is a grain truth in his statement about irresponsible reporting. The right thing to do is to file cases against them if it is true they are irresponsible in doing their job.
For many years now, the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) has been trying to address the problem of irresponsible reporting, which is evident in some provinces. Most of these reporters work at radio stations and double as commentators.
Their being irresponsible is mainly due to their lack of training. This is the reason they use foul language in their commentaries, and this angers people whom they are criticizing.
Instead of chastising reporters, Malacanang should help the NPC in conducting professional training of journalists.