Can media avoid revenge? 

By Alex P. Vidal 

“Any story about revenge is ultimately a story about forgiveness, redemption, or the futility of revenge.” — Nick Wechsler

IT’S a misnomer for any public official to think of revenge against members of the press after he has been “humiliated” or “tormented” over a legitimate news, or issues related to his function as public servant, not to his person.

There’s a whale of difference between “You are liable for the loss of taxpayers money or destruction of our heritage over a damaged edifice because of your negligence and apathy” and “You’re a thief; irresponsible father; sex fiend; mentally deranged; drug addict; smuggler; philandering husband, etcetera.

The former is valid, above-board, necessarily evil, so to speak, in order to call the attention of the public official and prod him to correct a wrong or make changes or improvement to an error or shortcoming.

The latter is fatally offensive and slanderous, a direct attack against the public official’s person, very damaging, to some extent. It’s below the belt, can be an assault against the public official’s character and reputation. There’s a libel law that deals with irresponsible and defamatory insults.

However, some public officials opt to let the verbal brickbats pass by resorting to a moderate or well thought out remedy to assuage their frazzled emotions and ego.

Instead of revenge or retaliatory attack, they bring the “action” to the media entity’s turf for corrective measures by asking to be heard and be given the opportunity to belie the negative issues against them and clarify matters without the need to harass and intimidate the working press and ink their signatures in the prosecutor’s office.

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I remember two instances in the early 90’s where I criticized then Iloilo City lone district Rep. Rafael “Paeng” Lopez-Vito by inferring that he was the “chairman of the House committee on silence” because he was “never heard” in the august halls of the 8th Congress.

We in the press weren’t the first to actually confer the infamous tag to the honorable congressman; it was his political nemesis, the late former city mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon, who coined the banter.

Always graceful but oftentimes acerbic when criticized, Lopez-Vito unloaded his heartaches and bamboozled this writer in a long letter-to-the-editor.

The other was when I made an expose or wrote an exclusive story about a debt-ridden prominent Ilonggo tycoon who “attempted suicide” amid the severe worldwide financial crisis that saw the US dollar go up against the Philippine peso.

Even if I didn’t name the tycoon, his brother-in-law came out swinging with a hatchet and strafing me with unprintable in a fiery letter-to-the-editor.

Once we gave the anxious and emotionally charged subjects of news the leeway to express their thoughts and free spaces to unburden their torment and twinge, we avoided a fatal sumo wrestling match and quick leap to Armageddon.

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Meanwhile, revenge by any vindictive public official—elected or appointed—even if the issues raised against him were valid and galvanized with public interest, can be in the form of the following:

  1. “I will file a case against you.” This can be in a form of libel, cyber libel (the latest animal in the zoo), or whatever civil or criminal case or cases as long as the “offended” public official can strike back. In most instances, the litigation doesn’t prosper as the courts normally find these cases bereft of malice and may be considered as a form of harassment against the working press.
  2. “I will make life difficult for you.” If you’re a beat reporter (a media practitioner assigned in a particular agency/office like capitol, city hall, health, agriculture, military, police, etcetera), the “offended” public official will see to it you’re given a cold shoulder treatment or isolated—not to be invited in important conferences and programs so you will miss some “breaking” news or official statements from vital sources of news.

It’s not a secret that some media practitioners dabble in “sidelines” to buttress their income. If the sidelines are independent of the media practitioner’s identity or function from government, the better.

If that sideline requires a permit or authorization from the powers that be, we will understand what it’s meant by the line “make life difficult for you.”

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A WARNING. World peace. I have been hearing this since I was in elementary. At that time, the world had already undergone savagery and inhumanity wrought by two world wars and one genocide in the just concluded century. The next world war will be fought by stones, warned Albert Einstein.

CONTROVERSIAL RINGS. The first nipple rings, called bosom rings, appeared in Victorian Europe in the 1890’s. They became fashionable among women who often wore them joined together by a small gold chain.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)

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