High-tech communications hasten news reporting in Maguindanao PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 27 August 2012 14:04

Modern communications technology gave depth to media’s coverage of the atrocities perpetrated by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement in Maguindanao province and virtually made news reporting more comprehensively extensive.

While portions of the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway straddling through five Maguindanao were closed from August 6 to August 10 due to the presence of bandits along its stretches traversing several Maguindanao towns, journalists conveniently gathered information for their reports through mobile phones from security authorities and local officials “marooned” at both ends of the troubled thoroughfare.

The bandits, surprisingly, did not destroy any of the telecommunication cell sites near the five towns, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak, and Ampatuan, which they subjected to violent incursions.

This unusual behavior of the BIFF was a stark contrast with how Moro rebels toppled down communication towers and power transmission pylons of the National Power Corporation during past conflicts in Central Mindanao.

What made reporting on bloody events — that first unfolded midnight of August 5, where BIFF fighters simultaneously attacked Army positions along the national highway traversing the five towns — become more comprehensive was the participation of various peace advocacy and humanitarian outfits in monitoring the security situation in conflict-stricken areas.

These non-government organizations willingly provided reporters updates on the security situation in far-flung areas from inputs fed to them by their respective field workers.

The BIFF has also been relying heavily on mobile phones as means of communication, from its central leadership core, down to its commanders that led the attacks.

The group’s spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, warned over a local television outfit here Friday that they are to perpetrate more attacks now that their forces have scattered after the fall of their camps at Mount Firis at the tri-boundary of Datu Saudi, Guindulungan and South Upi towns.

“I can write my stories anywhere now, even under the shade of a tree in any combat area where there is mobile phone signal,” said print journalist Jeofrey Maitem, a correspondent of a national newspaper.

Times have changed indeed that even sending of photos to news desks in Manila have become faster and less cumbersome.

A Tausog journalist, Julmunir Jannaral, said media coverage on President Estrada’s all out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000 was too difficult and taxing compared to how journalists in the South covered the conflicts in Central Mindanao in 2003, 2008, and the BIFF harassments that started early August.

“There were no cell sites in conflict-stricken areas then. From the field, reporters would have to return to the cities after lunchtime, write their stories and send them to Metro Manila either via fax services of telegraph outfits, via dictation over long distance landline calls, or through very slow internet facilities,” Jannaral said.

Information assistants of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu also acknowledge how advancements in communication technology help hasten their dissemination of information on their relief works for thousands of evacuees dislocated by the BIFF-initiated atrocities.

France Milla, Mangudadatu’s chief information assistant, said they can also easily monitor now through the internet all reports about the activities of the provincial government by print and broadcast journalists that come to the governor’s office to attend press conferences.

Milla said reporters, owing to advancements in communication technology, can write or broadcast anything about the activities of the provincial government without even seeing the governor for personal interviews in his residence or satellite office in Buluan.

Milla said the governor answers calls and text messages from reporters, as long as he is not in a meeting, or at sleep, or airborne on a flight.

There are print, radio and TV journalists frequenting the governor’s office in Buluan, but have not been even able to produce stories based on press conferences presided over by the governor, according to employees  tasked to monitor news reports about the provincial government. 

Sam Sali, a reporter of the Catholic station dxMS here, said radio and print journalists can also easily update their reports on hourly basis due to the availability of mobile phone transmission signals everywhere in the field.

Broadcast reports of dxMS and the other AM station covering Central Mindanao, dxMY of the Radio Mindanao Network, can be monitored through their respective internet “ustream” website  domains.