Media and the War on Drugs


RODRIGO DUTERTE’s resolve to rid the country of illegal drugs won him the votes as Filipinos cheered the tough-talking local politician to do what he had done as mayor of Davao City, which he proclaimed among the safest of cities in the country.

His campaign narrative also claimed that illegal drugs ranked as the top priority among national problems was not based on fact. The two leading polling bodies, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia ranked crime and drugs as seventh in the listing of perceived critical concerns. His campaign promise that he would “kill” drug lords, pushers and addicts if necessary to protect the country from becoming a narco-state was hyperbole based on a lie. The statistics just did not support the exaggeration.

This is not to deny that many poor communities suffer from the plague of drug-related crimes, by addiction, with so many poor Filipinos drawn to its illicit trade as a way of earning more for their needs.

The message about the need to fight drugs dominated Duterte’s campaign, especially in social media. It would be picked up by the mainstream media channels as they followed the lead of Duterte’s political caravan.

The propaganda did not quite have the facts right. International media were quick to go to sources of global statistics and found that the numbers in the Philippines did not quite support the charge that the country was in the grips of crisis and carnage; nor was the evidence to support that drugs were at the root of crime in the country. (Time, New York Times, Reuters)

Duterte’s campaign tactic was right on target however. A fight against illegal drugs appealed to the masses whose communities had suffered from its trade and its use. His mailed fist approach also won him votes among the well-heeled and well-to-do.

Adding his bombastic style and his common touch made for an unusual but effective campaign.  But the killing strategy is wrong and in the long run, ineffective. Duterte has misled Filipinos into thinking that unleashing police forces to rid communities of all drug personalities would do the job of promoting public safety and security. The facts show that this approach has failed everywhere it was used in the world.

In Thailand, in Colombia, in Mexico and the US, the punitive approach has caused needless loss of lives. Governments in these countries have turned to other approaches to establish effective ways and means of rehabilitation along with the treatment of addiction as a medical problem.

Punitive measures that prioritize tough law enforcement over efficient health and social services fail to deter drugs, leaving little room for victim rehabilitation and reintegration to society.

Bangkok Post reported the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s work to promote a “humane and evidence-based drug policy” which involves finding alternatives to imprisonment and criminal punishment for “low-level players” such as users and mules.

The Commission adds: “Insisting on abstinence alone ignores the realities of drug dependence, and the underlining social, economic and environmental factors that can be core drivers of drug use.”

From the start, the implementation of Duterte’s  war on drugs depended on corrupted agencies, unleashing the potential for grave abuse of police force against citizens. From the start, the president has made the situation worse by his belligerent reactions to any criticism about human rights violations, his dismissal of any protest against the lack of due process and his failure to pursue swift investigation of police operations involving extra-judicial killings. His officials have followed his example accusing international criticism as interference in internal affairs.

The media took some time to call out the police forces and reveal the rising number of victims of Oplan Tokhang. The press reported these without much question through June. Death tallies had reached more than 500 by the time the local press began to a more proactive coverage of the crisis.

Some news organizations stand out for the work they have done to inform the public about the president’s war against the poor and the powerless victims of drugs. Others have taken to sitting on the fence or standing timid on the margins.

Photo by Vincent Go



MEDIA MONITOR

Taking a Stand: Journalism for Humanity

Posted on: August 10, 2016, 2:43 pm

IN JUST a short span of time since his oath-taking on June 30, President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has already claimed hundreds of lives. The death toll which has alarmed human rights advocates here and abroad struck as early as Duterte’s landslide victory in the May 9 elections.

CMFR monitored the coverage of the anti-drug campaign and related issues in the news pages of the Philippine Daily InquirerThe Philippine StarManila BulletinThe Daily TribuneManila Times, Manila StandardBusinessWorld, BusinessMirror and Malaya Business Insight from July 1 to August 1, 2016.

The abundant news coverage focused more on the immediate effects such as the high number of killings, the arrest of suspects and surrender of addicts and other involvement. But there was less attention given to other aspects such as the families of slain drug suspects and the protest of religious groups and human rights agencies.

Frequency of Reports

During the period monitored, all nine newspapers published a total of 888 drug-related reports. The Bulletin led with a total of 208; followed by the Times with 186; and the Star, 165. The Inquirer came in fourth with 143 reports. (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Number of Reports per Newspaper

Most of the reports focused on the updates on the anti-drug campaign, for a total of 230 reports; followed by reports on the killings (210); and the surrender and arrest of drug users and peddlers (94). Other topics covered include statements from concerned groups and lawmakers, cases filed and probes to be conducted, reports on drug rehabilitation and jail condition, narco-politics, legislation, and other related subjects. (See Figure 2)

Figure 2. Number of Reports in Print per Category 

Exception: Exploring Other Sides

The straightforward reporting publicized the administration’s anti-drug campaign. (CMFR has already pointed out the superficial characteristic of reports on drug killings in a previous monitor.)

Without critical notes and quoting only police authorities, merely straightforward reports presented the campaign as succeeding in its goal to fight drugs, suggesting approval.  But killings as a policy against crime are not the norm. The numbers of suspects slain are shocking and cannot be treated with “neutrality” by the press. In certain circumstances, so-called journalism objectivity does not apply.

Journalists, claiming such objectivity, reveal themselves to be without the normative values of their own society – primarily respect for human life and recognition of human dignity. Presenting the string of killings without background and analysis, without reference to opposing views is to suggest this as a norm in crime fighting, something that merits public approval.

In terms of numbers, the Inquirer had fewer drug-related stories than the Star, the Bulletin and the Times.  But it ran more stories (36) with sources that were critical of the campaign. These include statements from human rights advocates and religious groups, denial of the kin of suspected drug users and pushers and exploratory stories on related issues. (See Figure 3)

By so doing, the Inquirer correctly adopted an editorial position about the killings.  It is a position that reflects the values inherent in its purpose and practice.

Figure 3. Number of stories that reported a different perspective

*lighter shade = critical reports

The Inquirer also published reports looking into related issues such as the lack of government support for drug surrenderees, cases of brutality and vigilantism, claims of innocence, rehabilitation, as well as the campaign’s impact on the poor.

The Inquirer’s stance became more evident in its July 24 issue when it used as banner photo a striking image of a grieving Jennilyn Olayres cradling her partner, Michael Siaron, who was killed by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen near Pasay Rotonda on Edsa.

The photo received mixed reactions. Duterte dismissed it merely as “drama” during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25 while some accounts in social media raised doubts about its integrity. A blog even accused the Inquirer of “deceptive photojournalism.” The Inquirer stood by its photo and published articles on July 31 that recalled what actually happened during the time of the incident, the photographer’s thoughts on the public’s response, as well as a closer look at the life of the victim.

The Inquirer’s banner story on July 25 talked about the “public split” in opinion over the drug-related “executions” (“Drug executions: Public split,” July 25, 2016). Its August 1 banner story, meanwhile, looked back at the story behind the viral photo and carried the message of Olayres to Duterte—to “kill drugs, not people.” (“Widow tells Duterte: Kill drugs, not people,” Aug. 1, 2016)

Expanding the Coverage

While keeping regular tab on what’s happening in the war on drugs is necessary, the press needs to go beyond recording the daily death toll and should break away from the routine presentation of news. News about crisis should broaden the scope and perspective of reporting so the public can understand the gravity of the situation. It needs to take into account the impact of these developments on several components that make democracy work: human rights, due process, the presumption of innocence, police and official conduct, and accountability.

CMFR recognizes the difficulty in covering the war on drugs because of safety and access concerns, but this is one of those times when the press needs to step up its game.

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Anti-Drug Campaign: Swallowing Everything the Police Says

Posted on: July 1, 2016

THE RECENT spate of killings and arrests of citizens suspected to be drug dealers and users has set in motion the six-month crime purge that newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte promised during the campaign. The death toll has risen to 59 since Duterte won the elections. Confessed drug users and pushers, meanwhile, are surrendering to the police by the hundreds, fearing for their lives now that the former mayor of Davao City has assumed the presidency.

Drug-related incidents and crime in general have become so commonplace that there is no longer any reaction to photos and headlines. It is not surprising to see a drug user in handcuffs making the headlines. Routine reports provide an opportunity for the media to investigate the country’s pervasive drug problem, the conduct of the trade and efforts that have been undertaken in the past and what can be done about it. At this point, the media should raise the question about the application of summary execution of suspects which had been alleged in the police efforts in  Davao City when Duterte was mayor.

CMFR monitored the coverage of drug-related incidents by four primetime news programs (ABS-CBN 2’s TV Patrol, GMA-7’s 24 Oras, TV5’s Aksyon and CNN Philippines’ Network News) and the top three dailies (the Philippine Daily InquirerThe Philippine Star and the Manila Bulletin) from June 6 to 24.

Drugs in the News Agenda

Drug-related crimes have always occupied a top spot in the news agenda. It’s not surprising that the news media’s treatment of this issue remains the same, particularly in broadcast where drug-related reports are usually aired during the first half of primetime news programs and even included in the review of the day’s headlines. But shouldn’t the media be ringing alarm bells over the spate of killings of those supposedly involved in the drug trade, especially since little attention, if at all, has been given to the issues of human rights and due process. Are these suspects being charged of crime so they can go on trial and be convicted?

TV Patrol aired the most number of drug-related reports among the four programs — a total of 62 reports in 19 days. 24 Oras had 51 reports, while Aksyon produced 35 stories. Network News had the least number of reports at 19.

In print, drug-related stories took up considerable space in the regional and metro pages. The Bulletin led in covering this issue with 75 reports. The Star published 53 reports while the Inquirer had 43.

Provincial reports in the Bulletin are published in its Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao news pages.

Whether in broadcast or print, these reports merely replicate police blotter reports, following the usual formula of reporting who were arrested and with statements from police officers, investigators or anti-drug agency members.

Broadcast media make the most of their visual component, providing a semblance of action and drama with footage of actual operations, drug paraphernalia and suspects concealing their faces from the camera. Reports on TV also used graphics to report the latest count of arrested or killed drug suspects as provided by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Cases of suspected drug lords slain by unidentified persons or supposedly killed when resisting arrest did make the headlines. Some of them, according to the media reports quoting the police, were operating in urban areas such as Caloocan, Malabon and Cebu, and were given a day or two of coverage. Drug lords operating from the New Bilibid Prison allegedly offered up to a billion pesos as bounty for Duterte and incoming PNP Chief Ronaldo dela Rosa.

Going Beyond the Police Blotter

Crime stories are usually covered as single, unrelated events. Incidents on drugs are no exceptions. At times tagged as exclusive reports, these stories adhere to the usual manner of reporting crime: Their being “exclusive” often offers little that is new or significant.

Drug-related reports may only seem trivial and meaningless when reported without context. The national relevance of these routine reports, especially in the new administration, should be the subject of investigation not only by police forces but also by the media. Whether they occurred in the same area or not, establishing the connection of one drug arrest to another would give the public an idea of how extensive and persistent the drug problem in the country is.

The news reports seldom, if at all, discussed the justice system and the right of every citizen to due process, such as reading a suspect’s Miranda rights, the requirement of search or arrest warrant, and his right to face his accuser in a court of law. Equally ignored are the rights of children who have also been targeted for arrests under the police’s RODY (Rid the Streets of Drinkers and Youths) campaign, or even the rights of individuals to congregate outside of their homes, shirtless or not.

There’s also the question of whether the allegations that are used to justify use of force all have basis, considering that some have complained that they or their loved ones were not at all involved in the drug trade.  And surely, the usual police line that dead suspects tried to grab the police’s firearms, leading to the shootout, merits further scrutiny by the press. They, alas, did not and simply swallowed everything the police said.

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IN MEDIAS RES

Duterte’s War on Drugs: Learning from the Failure of Thailand and Colombia

By Melinda de Jesus

President Rodrigo Duterte is not the first to take to the path of violence with the goal of ending the plague of drugs.  Thailand’s highly controversial and equally popular Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who rose to power in 2001 also thought he could fight fire with fire.

Living in Thailand from 2005 to 2008, I watched the initial phase of the unravelling of Thaksin’s government. The Thais were a divided community, with groups taking to the streets, wearing different colors to protest or to support Thaksin. I heard Thai friends and colleagues in the press cite the egregious human rights violations in the course of the drug war among the reasons they could not support the leader. While the man’s populist policies won over a strong majority, Thaksin was ousted as military forces divided into factions.  The generals who had the numbers moved decisively and dramatically to force him out of power while he was traveling abroad in 2006.  He has since lived in exile.

This is not about Thai politics. The reference to the Thai experience is to demonstrate the futility of a policy based on killing drug users and small-time dealers/pushers in fighting drugs.

The poor in Thailand are not as impoverished as ours. They have a smaller population. But even in their situation, eliminating the most vulnerable participants in the trade got the Thais nowhere.

When candidate Duterte campaigned to wipe out drugs, he clearly indicated that his method would be repressive, recalling for those familiar with the Thai experience, the distressful loss of lives. I was struck with alarm. Our police cannot claim better records of efficiency than their Thai counterparts. Anyone who has done even the most marginal reporting on killings and other crimes, know the links that bind criminals to police collusion. With Duterte winning on the promise of his full support for the police if they happen to kill resisting suspects, one could only imagine the death toll that would surely follow.

Let a Thai journalist say it: “Duterte should learn from Thai drug policy.”  This headlined a commentary (In a Nutshell)  published in the Bangkok Post recently (Friday, September 2).  Napporn Wong-Anan was in Manila for a media forum on other issues, but it was Duterte’s drug war that became the main subject of talk among the regional participants.

In three months, Thaksin’s campaign claimed 2,800 lives. Philippine police records show 2,927 dead  from June 30 to September 6. A review of Thai cases showed that rule-of-law procedures were ignored, that some victims were named by feuding neighbors, that there were many slain who had nothing to do with drug use. Some had problems with the police, their deaths classified as EJKs.

Like Duterte, Thaksin’s fight against drugs through killings was challenged by national and international communities.  Thaksin called a halt to the campaign, calling it a success. But Napporn recalled, noting that “The main outcome of Thaksin’s ‘war on drugs’was arbitrary killings.”

The column also described a forum in Thailand which reviewed the policy. It reported the admission of Police General Paiboon Khumchaya: “It has been wrong all these years. If, not why 70% of drug offenders remain in prison? Why does the problem persist despite thousands of deaths? And why do people still complain about drugs in their community?  They’re telling us there’s something wrong.”

From farther abroad, Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s leader, attending the UN general assembly special session on drugs last April (2016), echoed the sentiment, “I know we must rethink our drugs war.” At the global summit, Colombia argued for a global consensus that would  “frame  policy on drugs with a context of human rights.” Unlike Duterte, he has thought long and hard about the global drug problem in which context Colombia has played a prominent role. The move from “repressive to more comprehensive measures” makes sense to our situation.

Every nation can learn from the global experience. And it would be sheer arrogance to think we can do better where others failed. The Thais after all have shown us up in various aspects of governance and in the growing of their economy, among other matters.  Some lessons may be universal as drugs cross borders. We cannot afford to dismiss the wisdom gained in Colombia.

Actually, Philippine legislation dealing with dangerous drugs has evolved since the seventies to broaden the orientation of policy, reflecting the wisdom of interdepartmental cooperation, engaging schools, family and other sectors so the problem can be approached from its various aspects. Drug dependency and its use is not a simple matter of criminality and requires an integrated front, incorporating various forces, insuring responses at various levels. There is much to do for everyone. And those who decide to trust one strategy as proposed by government fail to fulfill a citizen’s own obligation.

The police definitely have a major role to play. Their operations should focus on dismantling the manufacturing sites of shabu and those running the networks of distribution. But to treat drugs as a matter of police action alone is to dehumanize the issue, tear it away from the social as well as the political contexts which have allowed drug trade to proliferate.

The crisis of drugs is more critical in some areas, a social and public health problem that calls urgently for a diversity of responses. To leave it only for police resolution is to be out of touch with the reality of the threat. Let us learn from the Thais and the Colombians in recognizing the limits of a killing strategy.

Let us also remind ourselves that lives once lost can never be recovered.

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CHEERS | JEERS

Screengrab from Inquirer.net.

The ‘Kill List’: Tracking the Killings

CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for its initiative to track the killings of suspected criminals in the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs,” as this serves as a valuable reference in establishing a reliable record of the numbers slain.

First published on July 7, the Inquirer’s “The Kill List,” contained the names of and other basic information about suspected criminals who have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte’s first day as president on June 30.

Most of those in the list were identified by the police as suspected drug dealers or pushers.  The Inquirer announced that it would update the list every Monday and Thursday, and that it would follow up with a separate count of those killed within the post-election transition period (May 10 to June 29). (Did PDI do this? If so, it should be noted in this updated version. Same if this was not done.)

A section of Rappler’s “Drug suspect killings rise after Duterte victory,” on June 24 makes a similar effort.

These media counts serves as an independent resource of facts that would be useful in any investigation and facilitate a quick check on attempts to cover-u and white-wash police abuse. Just one month after Duterte took office, the number of those slain in police operations had already the killings as the numbers have already raised public concern about the failure of due process, which President Duterte had assured in some of his statements and reiterated by other officials, such as Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Philippine National Police Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

So far, other local human rights groups have yet to come up with their own monitoring or tracking initiatives.

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Screengrab from Philstar.com.

Recalling the Rights of the Accused

CHEERS TO Philstar.com for a timely and relevant look into the rights of individuals accused of crimes in the Philippines in the context of the “war on drugs” of President Rodrigo Duterte. The spike in the number of drug pushers and drug users killed for supposedly resisting arrest has provoked statements of concern about possible violation of human rights, from Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, Human Rights Commissioner Jose “Chito” Gascon, and Senators Leila de Lima, RisaHontiveros and Franklin Drilon.

The rights of those accused of doing wrong,”  by Jonathan de Santos,  posted on The Philippine Star website on July 10, reviewed the Philippine National Police (PNP) handbook and the 2008 “Know Your Rights: A Citizen’s Primer on Law Enforcement” by the PNP and the HannsSidel Foundation.

Philstar.com noted Rule Number 1 of the Revised PNP Operational Procedures handbook that requires all PNP personnel to “respect the human rights and dignity of suspects during police operations”  to be able “to serve the public and protect life and property.”

The report enumerated the rights of the accused during arrest, including the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, and the right to contact a lawyer or an immediate family member. It also highlighted the rights of the accused while in police custody, including proper conduct by the police during interrogations and when taking sworn statements.

Even before he was sworn into office, President Duterte had been very vocal in his focus on drugs and crime to the extent of urging the police to kill individuals involved in the drug trade who resist arrest or who fight back.  After the May 9 elections, he declared that “if you resist, show violent resistance, my order to the police (will be) to shoot to kill.” As thousands of accused drug users and pushers have voluntarily surrendered to the police, the number of suspects killed for supposedly resisting arrest or while in police custody has also increased.

The report also quoted a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ ) blog by lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, national chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and a PCIJ trustee, who called the Duterte administration’s war on crime “a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiraling out of control and creating a nation without judges, without law, and without reason.”  The human rights lawyer also said that while “drug pushers destroy lives” and “criminals behave like animals,” killing them does not make the killer any better.

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Screengrab from ABS-CBNNews.com.

War on Drugs: Mapping, Charting the Killings

CHEERS TO ABS-CBN News website for providing a map and  charts on the death toll in  the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

On July 13, the news website of ABS-CBN 2 presented “MAP, CHARTS: The Death Toll of the War on Drugs,” which provided illustrated information on drug-related deaths  per province and city. Aside from the names of those killed, the web page also published the number of incidents per province, the categories of incidents (police operations, unidentified and “salvage” victims), as well as a monitor of the number of killings per week since May 10. It also tallied the number of incidents per region.

Aside from Philippine National Police Regional Office press releases, the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group aggregated data from other media organizations such as GMA-7, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, the Manila Bulletin, DZIQ Radyo Inquirer 990, DZRH News and The Manila Times among others.

This initiative is helpful for the public to get a better sense of the war on drugs, especially since the reporting of which in the mainstream has been incremental, often devoid of context and based mainly on police blotter. The map and the charts provide a larger picture that needs to be taken into account.

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Screengrab from ABS-News.com microsite.

‘Unheard Voices’: Humanizing the War on Drugs

CHEERS TO ABS-CBN News website for running a series of reports on the casualties of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

First published on October 27, “War On Drugs: The Unheard Voices” is a six-part series by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group that  focused on the stories of 50 drug suspects killed, randomly selected from more than 1,700 cases of victims of police operations since Duterte became president.

Weeks in the making, the series humanizes the drug war, adding powerful individual narratives to the increasingly improving coverage by the press of the bloody campaign. The series also includes an episode that examined the lack of equipment of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the story of one of the 13 police casualties.

Using the PNP’s own data on the drug war, relevant laws, police protocols and documents such as spot reports and death certificates, the series succeeded in making sense of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of suspected drug individuals. It also used interviews with police officials, witnesses and relatives of the victims.

When pieced together, the testimonies and documents showed contrasting perspectives, the claims of innocence on the part of the families and the suspect’s alleged resistance to the police. The series demonstrated that the official version of many of these incidents may not be entirely the factual or truthful version.

The series examined the criticism of the drug war as being an anti-poor campaign, as noted by former senator Rene Saguisag, a long-time human rights lawyer. Nearly all of the victims and families featured in the special report were from poor communities.

The profiles of 24 slain drug suspects, meanwhile, not only gave the readers an insight into the victims’ lives but also presented the much-needed human dimension of the bloody campaign which has been missing in much of the coverage by the media.

CMFR previously cheered ABS-CBN News for mapping the drug war’s death toll, as well as similar efforts such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “kill list“ and a folio of articles on the campaign from three different perspectives, and The Philippine Star’s  interactive microsite examining the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

[Feelbox]

Screengrab from Inquirer.net

Underscoring Drug Addiction as a Health Problem

CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for drawing attention to a less covered issue in the administration’s war on drugs: the health and rehabilitation of drug dependents. The media had simply followed the government’s orientation which concentrated its resources on the crime-fighting strategy.

Published on Nov. 13, the ” by the Inquirer research team presented drug addiction as a health problem and discussed the rehabilitation process for drug dependents.

The one-page infographic noted the effects of drugs to the body and the symptoms in diagnosing drug dependency. It also profiled drug abusers in the country, detailed the rehabilitation process and the qualifications for rehab treatment of patients, as there are those who need more than just rehabilitation efforts.

CMFR also cheered Philstar.com’s microsite’s (Sept. 26) special webpage which examined the administration’s war on drugs through four main categories of impact including policy, health, poverty and rule of law.

There are 1.8 million drug users in the country, according to a 2015 survey of the Office of the President’s Dangerous Drugs Board. About 700,000 of this number surrendered as of Nov. 7. The country has only 44 drug rehabilitation centers and only 15 of those are public that can only accommodate 5,000 patients.

The government said in September that it would open a temporary rehabilitation and treatment facility in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, which can lodge 10,000 patients. The rehabilitation center had a soft opening in mid-October. Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Rosell-Ubial announced that the facility will be fully operational in November.

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Screengrab from Inquirer.net

The Drug War from the Perspective of Those Covering It

CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for its three pieces on the administration’s drug war.  Written from the perspective of the media people covering it, the folio of articles also provided a breakdown of data gathered about the deaths that campaign has so far amassed.

On October 15, the Inquirer ran “Graveyard shift alive – and international” in its Metro section. In this piece, writer Aie Balagtas See turns the spotlight on those reporting, drawing out their reactions and their feelings. While the ongoing drug war and its daily casualties have become a staple of news, those assigned to the graveyard shift still feel the alarm and shock. She writes: “Even for veteran foreign journalists, the growing scale and seeming regularity of the killings can still give them pause.”

The photographer and his camera provide pictures and text, supplying that combined journalistic perspective in the second article “Dead Serious.” Photographer Raffy Lerma narrates “you shoot, as is expected of you, but every click of the shutter chips away at your humanity.” Lerma, who took the photo of Jennilyn Olayres cradling the lifeless body of her partner which the Inquirer published on its front page on July 24, recalled how the drug war has been “most brutal on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sector of society.”

Story in numbers war on drugs” explores what the statistics on the death toll indicate. Sara Isabelle Pacia documents not only the number of drug-related killings, but identifies the most dangerous places and times in the country for suspected drug users and pushers, breaking down victims by gender and naming the cities and their distribution in the National Capital Region and in some provinces across the country.

Informative and uniformly well written, the articles explore other angles in the drug war, breaking out from the formula of daily log reporting to provoke a deeper discussion of this most provocative issue.

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*All monitors updated for MediaTimes

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