Prop war » Manila Bulletin News

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By Jullie Y. Daza

Jullie Y. Daza

A propaganda war is what the terroists are waging to attract the attention of ISIS and show the world, beginning with their own countrymen, that they are a force of terror and power to reckon with. On the other side, government is embroiled in a war for peace, to restore law and order and faith in the duly constituted authorities.

Terrorists observe no rules, “they are everywhere,” they’re no respecter of human rights, nor do they obey the niceties of the laws of engagement, they are not concerned with protecting the innocent, only with the maximum damage that they are “licensed” to inflict. In addition, the urban-guerrilla tactics that they have been displaying with brutal energy in a city of 200,000 residents, whose houses are cheek-by-jowl and neighbors are within screaming distance of one another, makes it extremely difficult for soldiers in uniform to flush them out. On top of the obvious obstacles hamstringing a quick, clean, surgical finish, the Armed Forces have to contend with media’s continuing battles (among themselves) for the scoop or scoops of the day.

It was with dread and alarm that I saw on the evening news a still shot of three Maute fighters standing gleefully on top of the carcass of an armored personnel carrier of the AFP. Dressed in black, waving a black flag, they had their arms raised while their grinning faces glowed with triumph. That picture was an “exclusive,” and even if it was a mere “wipe” of no more than two seconds, it’s an image that won’t fade fast enough – principally because it was, surely and undoubtedly, authored by a Maute propagandist – aye, a direct hit, bull’s-eye! In contrast, what p.r. material can our soldiers show, when they are busy avoiding snipers and trying not to incur collateral damage, hunting an enemy who looks just like the people they must save?

The generals have asked media to exercise a limited form of self-censorship, do not give aid and comfort to the enemy. In the age of instant communications, denying the enemy a platform for their propaganda should not be counted as a sacrifice but a duty.

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