JEERS TO GMA-7's Saksi and Unang Balita for airing inaccurate claims as it reported live a house on fire and the circumstances surrounding the death of its owner. These were aired on May 17 and 18, respectively. The videos were no longer available when CMFR checked on May 20.
On May 17, retired Police General George Ancheta was trapped and died in the house fire in Brgy. Tandang Sora, Quezon City. GMA was on the scene and reported on the incident live.
Two days later, on May 19, Quezon City Councilor Doray Delarmente called out GMA-7 and its program Saksi on her Facebook account for "false, irresponsible, and insensitive" reporting. Delarmente is Ancheta's niece. She posted in the comments the videos of both Saksi and Unang Balita's reports.
Delarmente's post, addressing the reporter, said: "Jamie Santos, you reported na "lumabas yung senior citizen, at bumalik ulit ng bahay (the senior citizen went out of the house and then returned again to the house)."
"For the record, and based on all the witnesses na kasama sa bahay (his companions in the house)...HINDI SIYA NAKALABAS NG BAHAY (HE WAS NOT ABLE TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.) My uncle, Retired Police Brig General George Ancheta, died inside … and HE DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO GET OUT OF HIS HOUSE. Your FALSE REPORTING has been causing so much pain in our family. SO. MUCH. PAIN."
Further, Delarmente pointed out that the reporter announced the death of Ancheta on live TV, without waiting to make sure that the family had already been informed and would not hear of the death in the news.
Delarmente also described the insensitivity of the reporter for interviewing the house helper who had just escaped from the fire, instead of allowing him to receive medical attention first. The delay in medical attention caused the helper to be rushed to a hospital after the interview, Delarmente added.
CMFR urges GMA-7 and media in general to conduct a review of ethical standards with their reporters particularly when doing live reports from the scene. Reporting on loss of life and other tragedies, including devastating fires and various disasters, requires more sensitivity from journalists as the subjects themselves are already in a state of distress or worse. Interviewing them must wait as reporters must avoid getting in the way of rescuers and firefighters and their operations. Medical attention as needed by those affected takes priority.
At all times, one principle for media is "humaneness," a term used by Edmund Lambeth, whose textbook on ethics discussed the five human values that should serve as standards for journalists.
On May 20, Saksi posted a short statement offering condolences, adding that after learning about the Facebook post, they "immediately looked closely at the matter and reached out to the family."
This is not the first time the network has reported with insensitivity. In 2017, a GMA reporter interviewed a mother who was still in deep grief over the death of a son who had fallen victim to the drug war in Nueva Ecija.
More recently, CMFR jeered some print and online media for an on-the-spot photo and caption that violated privacy and lacked respect for the dignity deserved by the dead.
CMFR agrees entirely with Delarmente's criticism of the report. Her comments should remind journalists to put themselves in the place of their subjects or their sources who are human beings, not mere commodities for news. Every care and caution must be taken to avoid adding to their distress and discomfort.