Editorial: Lessons of long ago need to be repeated

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

THE news about a television reporter and his cameraman being wounded in a bomb explosion in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao teeters on grounds that have long been regarded as iffy at most.

As reported by Sun.Star, six soldiers and six civilians were injured when an improvised bomb allegedly laid by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) exploded in Maguindanao on Saturday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, the Army's 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the explosion occurred around 7:33 a.m. at Lower Salbo village in Datu Piang town.


“He said soldiers aboard two Simba armored personnel carrier vehicles were responding to a similar explosion in the area, involving another Simba vehicle, when the incident happened,” Hermoso said.

Two things stand out here: a military convoy and an explosion that occurred earlier where the military was going to check.

First, journalists who have executed due diligence will quickly remember a warning often repeated when covering conflict and trauma: “Always expect a second explosion.”

It pays to ensure that all those in the field know what they are getting into and are armed with knowledge on the basics of reporting conflict.

Second, while the television crew was in a market press vehicle, they were part of a convoy of military and civilian vehicles heading toward an area where gun battles are ongoing.

During the height of communist rebellion in Davao Region, that reminder had often been said and repeated: Do not ride with the military in a conflict situation.

The reason is simple enough, where gun battles are raging, the military is a key target.

It goes the same way with why the military should never be allowed to establish their camps near schools.

Military officials may always insist that they are there to protect, to provide security, but a journalist worth his salt should always remember that no one can provide real security under fire.

It pays to coordinate, to let those on the ground know where you are heading, but the sensible journalist will stay as far away from a military convoy.

These are lessons that some newsrooms are forgetting. We can’t blame them. The military has worked so much in improving their relationships with the civilian sector, the media workers among them, there is the general belief that they can be trusted to keep anyone safe.

They can keep terrorists away from a community, maybe; they can track down rebels and attack where the rebels are hiding, maybe, as well; but they cannot protect you if you are right in the line of fire by those wanting to get a piece of them.

Let us be reminded that journalism has never been a picnic. Let us strive to learn the craft and the hazards way beyond just writing and looking good at stand-uppers.

We’re not saying that journalists who take precaution will not be exposed to hazards as well, what we’re saying is, there are means to reduce the hazards of this very hazardous trade, and two of those are illustrated in what happened at Datu Piang last Saturday.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 03, 2014.


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