Friday, September 28, 2007

Jousnalist at Work

Shooting to kill
September 28th, 2007, filed by David Viggers

In this Reuters picture reproduced on newspaper front pages all round the world today, Japanese videojournalist Kenji Nagai lies dying in the street, still trying to record the scenes of violence after he was shot through the chest when soldiers fired live rounds at protestors in Yangon yesterday.

Kenji Nagai of APFKenji Nagai of APF

It is a chilling image and yet another reminder, as if any were needed, of the risks faced by the thousands of journalists whose job it is to bring us the news from areas of conflict and instability. At least Kenji Nagai had chosen to be there. He lost his life putting faces to what without pictures are just numbers.

My condolences to Kenji Nagai’s family, friends and colleagues.

Long Live the Internet

Myanmar forces swoop on protests in two cities, Internet cut

28/09/2007 15h54

Monks and their supporters run as police crack down on demonstrations in Yangon
©AFP/Moemaka Media/File

YANGON (AFP) - Security forces moved to crush protests in Myanmar's two biggest cities Friday, unleashing warning shots and baton charges, and cutting Internet access in the third day of a deadly crackdown.

The Internet blockage severely reduced the flow of video, photos and first-hand reports of the violence, which has left at least 13 people dead, galvanising world opinion against the ruling generals.

Up to 10,000 demonstrators surged onto the streets of the main city of Yangon Friday, playing a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as they repeatedly confronted police and soldiers.

In the central city of Mandalay, thousands of young people on motorbikes rode down a major thoroughfare towards a blockade set up by security forces who unleashed a volley that witnesses believed could have been rubber bullets.

Intent on quelling the biggest anti-government demonstrations in 20 years, the ruling junta has also mounted an offensive against the Buddhist monks who have led nearly two weeks of mass rallies.

With dozens of monks arrested, beaten or confined to their monasteries, the mantle has now been taken up by student groups and youths who dominated Friday's rallies.

Images of Burmese clashes. Duration 00:30
©Democratic Voice of Burma
"The monks have done their job and now we must carry on with the movement," said one student leader in downtown Yangon.

"This is a non-violent mass movement," he shouted as demonstrators tried to move towards the Sule Pagoda, one of the focal points of the demonstrations.

At a separate protest in Yangon, around 500 people marched in the streets, singing the national anthem as thousands applauded them from the sidewalks.

Monks, revered figures in this devout Buddhist nation, helped transform what began as a scattershot series of protests over a hike in fuel prices into the stiffest challenge to the junta's military rule since 1988.

But since the crackdown was launched Wednesday, at least three monks have been killed and hundreds arrested, including eight more on Friday in Yangon and Mandalay.

At least two monasteries were raided Wednesday, including one in Yangon's northeastern satellite town of South Okkalapa, where about 100 Buddhist monks were arrested and eight people shot dead after protesting the action.

In the wake of the violence, which shocked Myanmar people who hold monks in the highest regard, western diplomats said they had received information from several sources about "acts of insubordination" within the army.

Armed troops take position in the streets of central Yangon

"We heard that some soldiers have refused to obey orders and that others were even willing to stand alongside the demonstrators," one Yangon-based diplomat told AFP.

A telecom official confirmed that the nation's main link to the Internet was down, but blamed the problem on a damaged undersea cable.

Security forces have also smashed cameras and cellphones, and beaten people who were carrying them. Several newspapers in the country, which was formerly known as Burma, are no longer operating.

The official tally of dead and injured has been impossible to confirm. State media confirmed nine people were killed this week, but insisted that only 120 protesters turned out on Friday.

The Australian ambassador to Myanmar, Bob Davis, told Australian radio that the actual death toll may have been several times higher, according to witnesses who had seen significant numbers of dead bodies.

A Japanese journalist was among those killed Thursday, and Japan's Fuji Television showed footage which appeared to show him being shoved down by Myanmar troops and then shot at close range.

A street is littered with blood and sandals from protesters in Yangon

US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown renewed their call to the Myanmar junta to end the violent crackdown, after discussing the crisis Friday.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council decided to hold a special session on October 2 to examine the unrest in Myanmar.

And the Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued an unusually critical statement on its fellow member Myanmar, expressing "revulsion" over the use of force against demonstrators.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari was in Singapore on Friday, headed to Myanmar in a bid to convince the junta to open dialogue with democracy activists.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What is Love to a Four Year Old Boy?

The past few weeks, I noticed my four year old son kept telling me “I love you, papa”. I would reply “I love you too, Rigo”.

So one day I asked him an adult question. I knew before lodging the query that it would be unfair to him. I was confident that he knew the answer except that he could not blurt it out since his fragile mind is still in the process of maturing.

Anyway, I proceeded to asked him, “Rigo when you say I love you papa, what do you mean by love.” In my effort to communicate to him in the language he understands I rephrased the question over and over again. I could not seem to say it in the words he will comprehend.

So I stuck to my earlier question and asked him what he meant by love. Rigo then blurted out “love is kiss girl” then he gave me a sheepish smile along with a wily giggle.

I was taken aback. For one I know he knows what love is. I know because he has lots of it from the people around him. He feels it and he expresses it. I also know that he could not explain it to me yet.

But to answer me “love is kiss girl” showed that he has other concepts of love, the one that I usually call the “Hollywood love”.

Ever since, my thoughts on love have always been a far cry from the romanticism that we see on television and the movies. I stand that love comes from the WILL and not a product of the EMOTIONS.

If you use your will to love then it would be easier or harder to fall out of love, depending on how mature your will is.

If you use your emotions to love then you will be more dependent on external factors such as looks, smell or attitude. Any slight external change by your partner can precipitate love lost.

So, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”.

In Defense of Press Freedom

Just when journalists wrote 30 on this year’s Cebu Press Freedom Week, a lawyer dropped a bombshell that sent shockwaves throughout the media industry.

Nestor Archival, lawyer of Senior Insp. Jose Liddawa Jr. “whose car collided head on with a pick-up of ABS-CBN last week and figured in an altercation with the news crew” turned the tables on the giant network.

He said contrary to the news report over channel three in Cebu, Liddawa was “the real victim” and that the broadcast news report did not tell the entire truth.

He pointed out that at the end of the story, ABS-CBN footage showed Liddawa “collapsed on the ground.”

According to The Freeman, Archival “was able to gather witnesses who can testify that the TV crew mauled his client and not bystanders.”

The “lawyer said that just like the statements of the witnesses, who were owners of stores near the site of the accident, the ABS-CBN insider told him that it was (Ramil) Paican, (Joel) Noel and the crew’s driver who mauled his client and not the bystanders as the network earlier reported,” The Freeman further stated.

As a public relations practitioner my initial reaction to the lawyer’s statement was that it was a very clever spin. It was enough to create reasonable doubt. But, after giving it much thought, I got very much worried about the allegations made by Liddawa’s defense attorney.

It was a mouthful. To accuse a news organization, a giant network at that of peddling a lie or reporting half truth is very serious. The statements by the lawyer could be tantamount to an affront to press freedom.

I always believe that there are two sides of a story just like there are two sides of a coin. So, it beckons upon ABS-CBN to conduct a thorough investigation to ferret the truth. I am confident that ABS-CBN will do what needs to be done to protect its credibility.

It is also incumbent upon the media to ensure that there will be no whitewash so that the credibility of the Cebu press, which up to now is held on high esteem, is firmly protected.

The public deserves no less.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How dare you accuse Erap Estrada!

Over six years ago, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona who was then a member of the Philippine Senate delivered his “I Accuse” speech. The verbal attack cloaked with the veil of immunity against lawsuits such as libel or slander ignited the flame that would turn the life of former Philippine President Joseph Estrada into an inferno.

Erap, as he is fondly called by the millions of Filipino masses that voted him President was charged for receiving hundreds of millions of pesos from the illegal numbers game, jueteng.

Sensing public outrage against Erap, Senate President Manny Villar who was then House Speaker and political ally of Estrada railroaded the impeachment proceedings in the Lower House.

It started a full blown impeachment trial against a sitting president, a first in Philippine history. The hearing came to an eerie end when allies of Estrada in the Senate opposed the opening of the second envelope, which was widely believed to have contained damning evidence against Erap.

People power II ensued after the public, who were glued on there television sets for weeks to watch the impeachment trial unfold, saw Senator Loren Legarda shed crocodile tears.

She wanted the Filipinos to see that she was deeply moved by what many thought was a heroic act of Senator Aquilino Pimentel, then senate president. Pimentel stepped down as head of the senate after Erap’s men in the upper chamber successfully stopped the opening of the second envelope.

Even Senator Panfilo Lacson who was then Estrada’s PNP top honcho turned his back on his commander in chief after seeing millions of people in Edsa demanding for Erap’s ouster.

After being booted out of office by a popular revolt, Erap was criminally charged. He faced six years of court trial. As the hearing drag on people who played a key role in the ouster of Estrada like Guingona, Villar, Legarda, Pimentel, Lacson sang a new tune.

Nauseating as it may seem, these people together with advocacy organizations like Plunder Watch and cause-oriented groups who helped install Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as Erap’s replacement are the same political figures who now consider PGMA as public enemy number one.

So they have been trooping to the rest house of Erap where he is, for all intent and purposes, under house arrest. As the saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

The ouster of Estrada benefited politicians like Guingona. He was named vice president by PGMA when she assumed the highest post of the land. Villar ran and won as senator under the ticket of President Arroyo. These two political figures sealed Estrada’s fate.

Days before the Sandiganbayan announced its guilty verdict against Erap, Plunder Watch and several cause-oriented groups were rooting for Estrada’s acquittal. These were the very same groups that went out to the streets six years ago to demand Erap’s resignation.

How dare you accuse Erap Estrada!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Erap’s conviction is PGMA’s indictment

This morning, the Sandiganbayan found former President Erap Estrada guilty of plunder, a capital offense punishable by life imprisonment or even death. Days before the judgment day some quarters started to become jittery because of fear that a guilty verdict might open old wounds and induce Erap supporters to go to the streets to seek redress.

When the guilty verdict was announced none of the worst case scenario thought of by the present administration happened. But, it’s too early for our nation to heave a sigh of relief.

Despite being booted out of office six years ago through a popular revolt, Erap without a doubt, continues to wield tremendous power among the masses. Surveys show that his popularity and acceptability rating remains in the double digit zone.

Judging from initial news reports on television and news sites on the web, several high profile anti-Arroyo leaders are one in saying that the conviction of Erap for plunder is an indictment of the present administration for much worse crimes.

If the advisers of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will commit the same strategic blunder that led to the failed May 1, 2001 mass revolt, she could face the same angry mob all over again.

The ominous signs are clear. The mass protest showing support for Erap fizzled out fast. But, there is a growing sentiment among the people that, while Erap deserved the guilty verdict, PGMA must be the next leader of the land to face a court trial. There is an ocean of thought that PGMA has committed far greater crimes than her predecessor.

This is scary. If this growing sentiments is not handled well it might spell trouble for the present administration already in a survival mode.