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Is it good riddance to Maria Ressa?

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has belied insinuations he was instrumental in the sudden resignation of veteran broadcast journalist Maria Ressa as news and current affairs
head of giant network ABS-CBN, saying it was out of character for him to do such.

“Hindi namin ugali iyan (to get back at our critics),” he told a panel of STAR editors Wednesday afternoon, in response to entertainment editor Ricky Lo’s query, which had something to do with Ressa’s Asian Wall Street Journal article.

The ABS-CBN executive contributed an article to the foreign newspaper that carried the title Noynoy flunks his first test, in reference to the botched Aug. 23 hostage crisis.

The article was published on the eve of Mr. Aquino’s trip to the US.

“Nakita niyo naman siguro ang treatment nila (ABS-CBN) sa akin nuong campaign,” Mr. Aquino related, manifesting his irritation over fake reports about his being a psychiatric patient, which story only ABS-CBN carried, even if it knew from the start it was bogus.

“We really encourage discourse. Kahit sa broadsheets, there is one particular broadsheet (which he refused to name) that is very critical of me, hindi ko naman ginagawa iyun. Kung nakakabuti naman iyung ginagawa namin, e, di sana i-report naman nila,” he said.

For one, Mr. Aquino, despite his irritation over the interfering acts of broadcast journalists Erwin Tulfo of TV5 and Michael Rogas of RMN, have excluded them in the charges relating to the bungled Aug. 23 hostage-taking incident that killed eight Hong Kong tourists.

Malacañang instead referred their case to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters sa Pilipinas and their respective media entities to police their own ranks, with the stern warning that the state would no longer tolerate similar acts the next time around.

“We really value the sense of freedom, pero dito po nagkaroon ng Manila Peninsula incident (in Nov. 2007), pero marami pa rin po ang nakalimot sa guidelines. In future instances, pagka at risk kayo, our police powers are very broad,” Mr. Aquino warned.

“We expect this kind of unprofessional behavior not to be repeated again, or we could be compelled to ask Congress for appropriate regulations to protect the safety of the public, our security forces and media itself,” he told Palace reporters earlier.

“We understand that the major networks have taken action to discipline errant reporters and are reviewing and revising guidelines for coverage in emergency situations. These are encouraging signs that media is taking responsibility for its actions.”

The exoneration was in light of the sanctions made by the KBP, to which both broadcast journalists belong, and their mother networks - TV5 for Tulfo and Radio Mindanao Network for Rogas, who disguised as anchor Mike Enriquez.

Ressa, head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs for the past six years, has resigned from her post effective Jan. 3, 2011 when her contract ends.

“There is a time and place for everything in our lives. My time and place as head of ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs is nearing its end,” Ressa said in her internal e-mail and released by ABS-CBN Corporate Communications close to midnight Monday.

“My contract ends on Jan. 3, 2011, and I will not be renewing. I have nearly six months of accumulated leaves so I will go on terminal leave beginning Nov. 15,” she said.

Ressa leaves the network giant at a critical time for Philippine broadcasting. Rival stations ABS-CBN and GMA Network were both chastised by viewers and political leaders for their blow-by-blow coverage of the Aug. 23 hostage tragedy.

Ressa herself was grilled at a Senate hearing for the coverage and for a purported conflict of interest as a part-time contributor for CNN, her former employer with which ABS-CBN News has a video-sharing agreement.

However, her statement released Monday night did not explain the reasons for her resignation.

“Journalism faces challenging days ahead. Value and protect your editorial independence. I wish you clarity of thought, stamina, and courage to fight for what is right and avoid the compromise of mediocrity,” she said.

As head of ABS News and Current Affairs, Ressa has been an outspoken advocate of media freedom, while embracing new media as a means to empower ordinary citizens.

She is a habitual Twitter user and encouraged ABS anchors and reporters to tweet news. However, she has not tweeted about her resignation and has been silent on Twitter since 12:03 a.m. Oct. 10.

According to Ressa, ABS-CBN North America bureau chief Ging Reyes will be taking over as news head and will be arriving in Manila on Oct. 18.

Ressa asked her colleagues to support Reyes whom she described as having more than 20 years of experience as a journalist for the network. [Philstar]

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