Monday, July 30, 2012

Who are you as a photographer? A person or a professional?

While looking for a new topic to blog about, I found a recent The Guardian article that talks about whether or not it is ethical to take a photograph of people in the brink of violence or death.

It's a debatable issue for journalists and photojournalists for many years. Are we supposed to help the victim or do what our conscience tells us - that is, to help and give emergency relief?

It isn't simply a moral issue because people have divergent definition of what is moral or not. Also, it is not an easy ethical question that can only be responded to with a simple yes or no answer. And just by looking at the photographers' responses that The Guardian gathered, the war between the personal and the professional is clearly reflected.

1. Greg Marinovich:
It was my first exposure to such a thing. And although, as a journalist, my reaction was fine, as a human being I felt I'd really let myself down. It wasn't how I'd expected I'd react – I thought I'd try to intervene, or do something more noble. Yet I hadn't. I was really quite torn up about that. I was gutted that I'd been such a coward. From that moment, I was determined that, no matter what, I'd try to intervene and save someone if I could.
2. Donna Ferrato:
When I was taking other photographs for I Am Unbeatable, my book on domestic violence, I was there first as a photographer, not as a social worker. Yes, I would always be divided about whether to take a picture or defend the victim, but if I chose to put down my camera and stop one man from hitting one woman, I'd be helping just one woman. However, if I got the picture, I could help countless more.
3. Graeme Robertson:
The first time I experienced it, it actually stopped me taking images I really wanted to take or should have taken, because I was so mixed up and thinking, "Should I be doing this or not? I found it very difficult. But through experience, it's sad to say, you get immune to it. And then you can concentrate on your photography, and you feel that is your power.
4. Ian Berry:
When you're working with a camera, you tend to disassociate yourself from what's going on. You're just an observer. We were there to record the facts. But there are moments when the facts are less important than somebody's life.
5. Oli Scarff:
To be honest, even if I had been aware of what was going on, I don't know if I would have had the bottle to put myself in mortal danger. It's hard to know, though: those decisions come down to a spur-of-the-moment instinct. But, fundamentally, my role on that day was to document what was happening. In the corner of the picture is someone else taking a photograph. I think, perhaps, there is an innate human desire to record these kind of things. And the facility to do so has now been put in everyone's pockets.
6. Hampus Lundgren:
I became a photographer and not a person. It didn't cross my mind to talk to them. The man was being held up by his wife. He was badly injured, and getting help from other people nearby, including an off-duty policeman.
7. Kerim Okten:
I feel bad about it. I was frightened, so I just stuck to my professional duty. But life as a photojournalist teaches you that during this kind of violence, getting involved won't end it; it will just lead to more people getting hurt. 
8. Rhadhika Chalasani
I do believe that our main contribution is trying to get the story understood. And sometimes, when you think you're helping, you're actually making a situation worse. But, for me, you try to do what you can live with.
Around the world, this sensitive issue has been debated on for as long as maybe since journalism was born. Some say there is no right or wrong answer. But journalists or photojournalists must choose a side. Not even a neutral side.

One that is definitely not an easy stand was taken by UNTV's Daniel Razon who introduced his "Tulong Muna Bago Balita" (Rescue First Before Reporting) to make a statement about the network's stand in the form of an advocacy

Journalism is public service but it is also a business. As a business, the media sages say reports or photographs must sometimes be delivered to please and meet what the audience wants. That may be an explanation why we have many negative reports in the media because these are what the people want, as most news media producers would defend. I am not sure what the basis for this is, but I am not one of the "people" who are asking for these negatives to populate my viewing hours or the pages of the newspapers that I am reading. Are you?

Rescue and mission trainings conducted by UNTV for UP Manila students
In a way, Razon's stance could also be an indirect answer to President P.Noy's call to focus on the good news "kesa puro bad news ang hapunan ni Juan dela Cruz."

UNTV's advocacy stands up to offer a break and it is rooted from the station's tagline: "Ang paggawa ng mabuti ay hindi magbubunga ng masama (Doing good deeds will not reap evil). If its business is money-making, it would have been a lot easier for UNTV to just report all the negatives, the figures of casualties, and injured folks right away. It can even earn some Pulitzer Prize at that.

To choose the other side reaps a much different result - only sacrifices. Because after all, it is expensive to mount trainings and buy rescue-and-mission vehicles to maintain such undertaking. An even bigger challenge comes when the commitment is to do a regular operation because UNTV does not even have big advertisers or investors supporting its missions.

Saving the lives and helping fellowmen may be an antithesis to the practice of journalism, yet it is an antidote best served to the audience whose daily plates are filled with the often brutal, depressing and sensationalistic news.

Indeed, it is a serious and brave act to follow. The payoff from Razon's advocacy is not tangible. Such reward comes only in soothing the heart for responding to the call of the conscience to be humane, to be a person.

UNTV celebrates 8th year with Manibela Academy, Infant Care for Abandoned Babies

The Philippine television channel, UNTV 37, has celebrated its eight year this month. But who would have thought this little station with no big celebrities, no big advertisers, no imported shows or stars, and no big investors will reach this far? I myself could not believe this channel just did and looks headed to introducing more innovative projects in the future!

The impossible dream? Starting a TV station in the Philippines eight years ago is not a joke (because even back then, it's already a suicide to operate a television network even for just a day in terms of cash needed!). With the so-called network brawls, many Filipinos only knew of the two giant networks then.  It's either you are a 2 or 7 viewer, or you are swimming in the hundreds of available cable channels. The rest of other Philippine local channels were just virtually non-existent. But it obviously looks like UNTV is blessed, like the David in the midst of many Goliaths. Since then, UNTV started making a name for itself as the little man that could.

And when UNTV was re-launched in 2004 by veteran broadcast journalist, Daniel Razon whose early resume includes working with almost all the local television networks, I believe that many Filipinos may not even be aware of the new kid in the block whose humble proposal is a brand new way of television programming.

For the first time, Filipinos experienced an intelligent alternative where the shows are centered on providing informative, educational, inspirational, and intelligent resources via TV viewing. It may be quite late in the race but UNTV seems not interested in competition but only wants to deliver the goods, with emphasis on "not to insult the intelligence of the thinking Filipinos."

But aside from the many reasons that makes the station stand out (obviously not in terms of ratings to which the station is honest to not claim the No. 1 position), there is the daily public service programs for the marginalized. These are people who are living in the margins or who may be earning only as little as P50 a day.

Public service at UNTV was a commitment initiated by Razon, who later earned the title of Mr. Public Service because of his numerous public charity programs. There are medical and dental assistance legal support assistance, livelihood programs, Transient home, free bus rides, and more. All these are given for free. So if you are wondering where the long queues of people every morning that you see along EDSA Ave., near the North Avenue station of the MRT are headed, these people are not out to join a contest to win million peso or house and lot prizes.

In the fields of education and journalism, meanwhile, UNTV has introduced two landmark projects in the Philippines, the brainchild of Razon.

One is the the mobile school project through the Department of Education's Alternative Learning System (ALS) called Dunong-Gulong. The multimillion buses are packed with high-tech facilities, books, and educational resources and materials for students in remote areas.

UNTV-DepEd Dunong-Gulong project. Photo credit:
Then there is the News-and-Rescue project under the news advocacy slogan "Tulong Muna, Bago Balita" (Rescue First Before Reporting), whereby UNTV's working journalists and media people are trained to conduct rescue missions during crisis and calamity situations. Reports can come later just so we can save lives first, is what the advocacy means. For this project, UNTV deployed several rescue-and-mission vehicles around the country.

One of the UNTV mobile rescue vans used by the network's reporters.
One of the station's latest projects is the Manibela Academy, another first in the Philippines whose aim is to provide mechanical and livelihood training for drivers around the country. TESDA was key partner for this mobile driving school project. The bus will make rounds in barangays to teach drivers the proper and responsible way to drive.  

Manibela Academy bus, the mobile driving project launched by UNTV this month. Photo credit:
Then, UNTV also launched the Infant Care Program for Abandoned Babies project. This charitable project is aimed at providing shelter and care for abandoned and neglected babies. This may also be another helpful advocacy to prevent cases of abortion.

These notable projects by the station are being conducted in partnership with key government offices and non-profit organizations that include the Philippine National Red Cross, Ang Dating Daan's Bro. Eli Soriano, Kamanggagawa Foundation, and more.

UNTV-BMPI CEO and Chairman, Dr. Daniel Razon delivers his S.O.N.A. or State of the Network Address during the anniversary event at One Esplanade in the Mall of Asia grounds. Photo credit: International
To that and the bigger public service help to our fellowmen, to the leaders, staff and crews, mabuhay po kayo!

Happy anniversary to UNTV and more power to our "Tahanan Mo, Tahanan Natin!"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

P.Noy and TV Patrol

The first time I saw this Youtube video clip of President Benigno Aquino III being shared on Facebook, I did not give attention because of the length and the notion that it may just be like any other tribute speeches given by a special guest.  But when I checked back again my account, the shared clip was gaining more and more likes and love from people. There are praises and boos.

But please hold back your assumptions and please watch the video first.

Although I admire the current Philippine administration, but I have a few reservations. But I will not talk lengthily about those in this blog because we will focus on the President's speech and TV Patrol. I just would like to stress some important observations that I gathered after watching the above video.
  • The Filipinos finally got their voice back. The incumbent President is the new voice of the masses.
  • Transparent leadership. Maybe not 100%, but the honesty of the incumbent leadership is holding up strongly. 
  • P.Noy will say whatever, whenever, that he feels is right to say. Even if this means straining some chords.
  • The media is not very supportive of the government. Even unfairly critical at times, according to the President.
  • Speeches can be biting. Who says anniversary speeches must be pure tributes and praises? Criticisms and rebukes can be part of the mix to fight hypocrisy and abuses of media power.
  • No. 6 is secret.
TV Patrol is already considered an institution in media reporting and what best to prove that but its 25th year in the business of broadcasting. Their reporters and their hugely-paid commentators all speak in the vernacular to quickly connect to the masses. And the presentation is tabloid-y.

Everything seems normal until the speech of President P.Noy was delivered. Without doubt, the talk was not many may have expected coming from the President, but should already be not surprising in terms of the Law of Consistency. The Law states that the President is frank and can have a laser-sharp focus in terms of his agenda in public affairs.  The TV Patrol event is no exemption for rebuking, perhaps to teach an important lesson about reforming a bad, dark habit of the press.

Some sectors celebrated the brutally frank assessment of the President about the ways one of TV Patrol's main host may have deliberately and intentionally delivered his or her commentaries of the general affairs of the present government. I am among the thousands who shouted 'that is right, Mr. President! Talk in our behalf!"

P.Noy's speech mirrored the way the media perform its role and the manner the public may have grown weak or have retired entirely to care what the media is reporting about our affairs in this land.

I agree with the President in many of his observations that media responsibility must be observed at all cost and the media platform should never, ever be used by anyone for any vested interest to leave negative impressions or lingering thoughts in the people's minds (But curiously, why does management allowed or tolerated these for so long?).

The role of the media encompasses reporting the society's ills and its many highs. There are freedoms and privileges that a media person enjoys but there are also limitations to that freedom. The media plays a vital role in shaping the society's and the people's behaviors and attitudes towards fellowmen, the government and the world in general. Above all, there are responsibilities attached to that role, namely: that of being sincere, logical, rational and advocate of fairness and justice.

The President has admitted that there are flaws and misgivings that his current administration and the media can talk about. But these are not enough reasons why the media shouldn't be reporting also the positives. And the Filipinos, who are by nature truth lovers, must be proud of its new leader who have taken the bold step to fight, with a biting fang the hypocrisy in the media.

And I am optimistic that the President will live up to his commitment to be not influenced by anyone, even if they threaten PR disaster of the highest kind or votes being allocated to his opponents when election comes.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#Aurora, Colorado mass murder: more to come?

The news of the mass shooting-murder last July 20, 2012 that happened during a late-night Batman (a.k.a. "The Dark Night Rises") movie premiere in a theater in Aurora, Colorado may have resounded deeply into American consciousness up to this hour.

But as the Law of Proximity in Journalism may have put it, this fateful event may not dug deeply to create a national discussion among Filipinos the same way that the Americans are having right now in their soil.

With the Internet, the news reached us in the Philippines and may have saddened many of us who learned of the horrifying, senseless and premeditated tragedy that brought to 12 the numbers of people killed and dozens wounded.

Immediately after the news of the Colorado massacre have spread, commentaries about gun control, the Columbine mass shooting incident, imitation, and certainty of more shootings where brought up. 

Ang Dating Daan's Bro Eli Soriano have already discussed a similar beastly act after the April 17, 2007 mass murder committed by a South Korean student from the Virginia Tech which cost the lives of 32 and injured another 29 people before killing himself. Meanwhile, the suspect in the Aurora, Colorado killing named James Holmes is still alive and currently facing court hearings.

From Columbine incident to the Colorado shooting, it seems logical to ask why? What could be the motive driving these people to kill people? In the end it falls into a general question of why would some people resort to mass killing of their fellowmen?

James Holmes, the suspect in the Colorado mass shooting.

I also would like to find the answer so I have conducted my own research. During my search, something noticeable strike me: people asking for the whys may have dwindled.

Are we bored to death to seeing or hearing news of mass murder being committed one after another that our feelings of shock have been anesthetized? Or are we ignoring these realities because we want a break from the deluge of negative news circulating not only in the press but now being shared on our social networking timelines? Or that some are distancing already from the realities to live in a dream-like, illusory realities of their own making, just like Holmes' 'temporal illusion'? I may be thinking too much on this, but somehow I am sure some still care.

One thing is certain, this will not be the last and more of the same may resurface anywhere, even just around our neighborhood. What is our hope that we will soon see an end to this? For the Bible-believing among us, we would most certainly agree that a better world is coming soon - the only hope for humanity. Bro Eli has said it best in his blog, to which I quote an excerpt:
All evil will be ended; and evildoers will be paid what is due them, when the Lord of Glory comes in power in that blessed day. After the storm, there is a bright day ahead; and I believe, if you will believe in the Bible, we will all see that day.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Countdown to earth's last gasp for life?

I really planned for this. To wait a few more days before writing about my take on the end-of-world prophecy of Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda.

Earth in our hands for the future / Credit: Royalty-free image from Corbis
Not that blogging about Miranda's failed prophecy is obligatory, but among the headliners that emerged in recent memory, his failed declaration of the end of the world should serve as a warning to many people, especially to those who are still a member of this group.

Miranda's doomsday prediction was not in my radar early June until I found a new blog article shared by Bro Eli Soriano's Facebook fan page. Dated June 3, which is 27 days shy of the June 30 countdown of Miranda, the article discussed why Miranda is an undeniable liar. Only then I realized the relative importance of why blogging about this obvious blunder mattered.

Many may not be fully aware of Miranda's presence in the Philippines because that preacher, who was born a Puerto Rican and had been in Mississippi in recent years, have concentrated to grow his international ministry in Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

This Puerto Rican preacher seems to love shuffling different titles. He is "Daddy" most of the time to his followers, but there came a time that he assumed the position of the "Anti-Christ." The most recent title he stole is Jesus Christ's. He's earned a rock star-like fame in the United States courtesy of CNN and Fox News, not because he is cool or revolutionary but because the source of his personal wealth is utterly questionable.

According to CNN, Miranda was former "petty-thief" and a heroin addict who had a vision of two angels coming down from up high. The mission of these angels were divine, to tell Miranda: you are the Jesus reincarnate! So the story goes. Miranda's followers even have 666 symbols tattooed on their bodies as well.

Fox News traces the origin of Miranda's flock. Twenty years ago, there were merely a few hundred members of the Growing in Grace under this sect leader. Today, Miranda boasts of radio and television presence with 287 radio programs and a 24-hour Spanish-language TV network that reportedly reaches two million homes.

Then last April 25, 2012, Miranda, leader of the Growing in Grace International ("Creciendo en Gracia"), predicted that divine justice will arrive on June 30, 2012 to fulfill a prophecy of the coming end. His ominous vision included strong earthquakes, Armageddon, and the destruction of the rest of the earthlings who will not believe Miranda. The privilege of the believers include getting the ability to cross walls!

Billboards bearing Miranda's countdown to transformation campaign were seen plastered in buildings and walls in the United States, Brazil, and other countries. You can just imagine how much the campaign may have cost to mount, with the burden of paying off the expenses shouldered by the ministry's hapless members.

Then June 30 arrived, July 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and now 6. The world is still breathing and the humans in it, with God's help. Just what Bro Eli said that such doomed prophecy is the mark of false prophets that the Bible says will emerge in the last days.

That is why we should really care because it is all worth our time to talk about these realities. With open mind and deep thinking, it pays to be vigilant more than ever before.

Remember that there is no immediate assurance that Miranda's doomed proclamation will be the last. Because another countdown immediately takes the place of this June 30 prophecy. This time, it is December 23, 2012! The end of the Mayan calendar spells the end of the world it is claimed.

Historically and similarly with other doomed end-of-world prophecies, there are victims and losers. Often, the aftermath is terrible. Just recall what had happened to the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses who sold their properties and gave the proceeds to their preachers when the Watchtower Society predicted that the world will end on 1914. Then in 1925 and finally in 1975. All of these predictions failed. The members suffered grave financial loss and many were reduced to rat-poor conditions.

For some members of these religions, especially the fanatics even of Miranda's, these people will stay and forgive their fallen preachers even after all that had happened. But to those who learned their lessons the hard way, they will surely leave, promise not to be fooled again, and search for the truth.

As a starter, it will not hurt marking out in the calendar the date when the next Bible Exposition of the phenomenal preacher who is the lone crusader against these false preachers will be held in July, 2012, God willing.