Cebu Citizens-Press Council

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Committee report on describing crime suspects

September 19th, 2006 · No Comments

(Committee Members: Mayette Q. Tabada, Joy Tumulak, Jerry Tundag
Observers: Juan Mercado, Pachico Seares)

STANDARDS ON DESCRIBING OR IDENTIFYING CRIME SUSPECTS

In relation to standards adopted by individual news organizations in Cebu, and as far as these will coincide with or support those standards, the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) hereby encourages the media and the authorities:

[1] To be cautious in identifying the crime suspect or attributing guilt if the information available is not accurate or verifiable to a high degree.

– Identification includes the presentation of suspects at a press conference and publishing their names and photos in the news.

– Unless reliable sources officially consider a person a crime suspect, he shall not be presented and publicized as one.

– The information is reliable if verified by at least three sources, with whom the reporter and editor have a high level of confidence.

– The crime suspect shall not be treated as a criminal. Thus, devices like a placard hung on the neck or held by hand and a uniform marked “Prisoner” shall be avoided.

– Reports shall clearly distinguish between suspicion and guilt.

[2] To refrain from describing a crime suspect by race, religion or ethnic background unless the information is important to the report or for law enforcement.

– If the crime is racially motivated, reporting must not stigmatize a group or exacerbate racial tension.

– Identify the race of the suspect only if this information helps the public and authorities arrest the fugitive.

[3] To be cautious in releasing personal information not directly related to the case or not yet verified, especially if it injures further the crime suspect’s reputation or victim’s life.

– The gag law (Art. 357 of the Revised Penal Code) punishes the publication of “facts connected with the private life of another and offensive to the honor, virtue and reputation of said person, even though the publication may be made in connection with or under the pretext that it is necessary in the narration of any judicial or administration proceeding wherein the facts are mentioned.”

– For competition’s sake, reporters will not pry into the private lives of suspects or encamp at the homes of the accused and victim.

– Sensationalism shall be avoided, such as giving undue publicity to a description of a crime or during its commission.

– Media shall be sensitive in dealing with children, inexperienced sources or those affected by tragedy or grief.

– Collaboration between media and police can occur if the temporary withholding of reporting can preserve the lives of involved parties or promote crime detection.

(Adopted by consensus during a May 25, 2006 meeting at Vienna Kaffeehaus, Gen. Maxilom Ave., Cebu City. Present: Juan Mercado, Mayette Q. Tabada, Joy Tumulak and Pachico Seares.)

COMMITMENTS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT CHIEFS

During an Aug. 31, 2006 roundtable discussion, law enforcement officials and the Commission on Human Rights agreed in principle with the proposed standards.

Other agreements:
[1] Law enforcers will not require crime suspects to carry cards or wear shirts identifying them as suspects when they are presented to the media.

[2] For the safety of journalists and other persons present, crime suspects will be handcuffed at the back, not in front. Minors aged 17 and below shall not be handcuffed.

[3] Investigators will determine the age of the offender or victim to help guide journalists in the handling of the story.

[4] Law enforcers will confer among themselves how to implement the CCPC standards on describing or identifying crime suspects.

(Agreeing by consensus at the Hotel Rajah meeting were Director
Alejandro P. Alonso Jr. of the Commission on Human Rights 7,
Director Medardo G. de Lemos of the NBI 7, Province police chief Vic
Loot, and Cebu City police chief Melvin Gayotin, and region police
deputy chief for administration Ronald D. Roderos. Also present were
Juan L. Mercado, Pachico A. Seares, Mayette Q. Tabada and Joy
Tumulak. Observing were Chito Aragon of Cebu Daily News, Ian
Melencio of The Freeman, and Oscar C. Pineda of Sun.Star Cebu)

(For presentation at Sept. 21, 2006 CCPC en banc meeting)

Tags: Standards