7 January 2008

MS CHARIE VILLA
Head of Newsgathering
ABS-CBN

Dear Ms Villa:

TV Patrol’s coverage of our protest action at the Israeli embassy today was a textbook example of crass sensationalism, of bad journalism.

According to your report, we supposedly threatened to bomb the Israeli embassy. (“Israeli embassy binantaang pasasabugin!”)

Not only does this put one speaker’s statements out of context, it totally mischaracterized the nature and intention of our actions.

We went to the Israeli embassy to protest against Israel’s disproportionate and unjustified attacks in Gaza which have killed over 600 people, most of them civilians and children. During the program, speaker after speaker explained the historical roots of the violence in the Middle East, refuted the myths and fallacies widely propagated in the media, implored the Philippine government to take action, and appealed to the US and Israeli governments to stop.

Instead of reporting on the substance of our actions, however, your report zeroed in on one particular statement of a speaker, distorted it, and sensationalized it.

One speaker, a Muslim religious leader, said in his speech that he has received a lot of calls suggesting that the Israeli embassy be bombed in response to its acts of violence. This speaker empathically stressed, however, that he did NOT agree with such a course of action and that he advocated peaceful means to address the situation, as your or any other video documentation of the speech will clearly show.

He did NOT threaten to bomb the embassy.

Thus, TV Patrol’s report is, at best, inaccurate: a cheap attempt to sensationalize the news in order to lure more viewers and raise one’s ratings,  an instance of lazy journalism practiced by reporters and writers unable or unwilling to focus on and explain the substance behind news events.

At worst, your reporting is dangerous: portraying us as just “angry Muslims” [“sumugod ang tatlong-daang mga galit na Muslim”] hell-bent on bombing Israel. This fuels the stereotype of Muslims as pathologically irrational terrorists who have no grounds whatsoever for demanding justice; it bolsters the misguided assumption that only terrorists (ie Muslims) could possibly be opposed to Israel’s war crimes.

(Another correction: though most of those who joined the protest are Muslims, a large number of us are non-Muslims concerned about the war: a quick scan of our colorful flags would show that many of us came from secular progressive civil society groups, NGOs, trade unions, social movements and political parties. Many of us are Christians.)

This, incidentally, is precisely the kind of spin that one side of this war favors for them to continue committing mass murder. Expect a congratulatory letter from the Israeli ambassador.

Your report is not only patently erroneous and imbalanced, it also fans the flames of hatred and moves the world farther and farther away from peace.

News reporting being a public trust, we demand an organizational investigation into how such glaring inaccuracy could have possibly been allowed in your show. Because your viewers deserve more accurate reporting, we demand that a correction be broadcast immediately. Having been cast negatively in your report, we deserve a public apology.

Respectfully yours,

Herbert Docena
Stop the War Coalition Philippines