NOBODY dictates to the media what to cover or not, what questions to raise or not, even where to stand, sit or squat during news coverage. To do so is a form of censorship.

To get the issues and get the message reached the listeners, readers, viewers is the media’s reason for being. “The people have the right to know” is the media's main goal and weapon in risking their lives. All others are marginal. One is a pseudo-media if the people’s right to know is not flowing into his/her bloodstream and pumping his heart nor moves his/her passion.

Nobody wants to die in the performance of duty. But death is often the price of taking risks, of going beyond facts, or reporting what others don’t want to air and write.

The reports and reactions of Ambo Delilan and other media colleagues on the alleged ill treatment of the members of Bacolod-Negros media by the Masskara Festival organizers during the Miss Bacolod Masskara Pageant is indeed a media and citizens’ concern.

I can understand the reactions of Ambo and others. MassKara, like the Panaad Festival, is a great event. And for decades, the Bacolod-Negros media has played a great role in attracting tens of thousands of merry-makers from all over the world to Bacolod, not to mention the millions of revenues that go to the city’s coffer and pockets of host businesses.

To limit media’s participation in the festival, or specifically in the star-studded Miss Bacolod Masskara Pageant night which is a public event and has long been one of the main highlights of the Masskara, is simply biased and discriminatory. And it was the first time that it happened in the history of MassKara that the media as a leading publicity and revenue generator of the festival was marginalized.

For what reason, and at whose order, I don’t know, and I simply couldn’t fathom.

But least the detractors and ill-guided festival organizers overlooked it, that’s not the way to treat the media. Whether the host is a corporate or public institution, with its own public relations practices, the media will always cover events of public interest. Nobody can stop them. Let others try and they suffer the consequences.

Mistreating the media, especially provincial media often looked down as cheap and chop-chop, is bad corporate public relations. All media practitioners whether regular or block timer are guided by universal code of ethics for journalists, press and broadcasters – which the public has the right to know.

Nonetheless, to make everything fair to all, I suggest some constructive actions.

Negros Press Club (NPC) should make an official stand on the issue based on its own investigation.

Another is for representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs), independent media practitioners and vloggers, academe and business sectors to come together and make their impartial investigation and recommendations. The Diocese of Bacolod through the Social Action Center (SAC) could initiate the formation of this multi-sectoral body.

In this way, the core issue is made transparent and resolved objectively, rather than put hanging on air, and tickle everyone’s imagination, or worse, nurture biases and contempt.

More important, in a city and province of great divide and deep conflicts -- the necessity for everybody to learn to develop the culture of respect, dialogue, and a social family is much wanted.

Media’s special role is, after all, not just the harbinger of truth, but an instrument of unity and peace.