Headline-writing & the Sabah conflict

     Here’s the Agence France Presse story on yesterday’s carpet bombing of Tanduo, Sabah by the Malaysian military, reprinted below. See how the Agence France Presse was very careful in not using any loaded words or derogatory labels. It took pains in writing out: “Filipinos loyal to the former Sultan of Sulu” instead of the shorter, more convenient but loaded and derogatory  “gunmen” , “intruders”, “terrorists”, etc. . These epithets connote crime, criminal suspects, etc.. They make the state-party Malaysia fall outside the pale of international humanitarian law that prohibits carpet bombings of civilian-populated areas.

      Throughout the story, Agence France Presse took pains in being accurate, journalistically correct and politically correct.

      See how the Inquirer and Interaksyon handled the storification of the news item. Inquirer and Interaksyon used  generic nouns while at the same time being accurate and correct about it.  The Inquirer simply referred to the Sulu “Royal Army” members as: Filipinos (see their headline:Filipinos survive attack) . It’s accurate, correct, objective. Interaksyon referred to them simply as : Pinoy (see their headline: No dead Pinoy found 9 hours after Sabah assault. Accurate, correct, objective. But look at Rappler’s headline of the exact Agence France Presse story (Agence France Presse precisely took pains in referring to the combatants as “Filipinos loyal to the sultan” throughout the article)…. Rappler headlined it as: Pinoy gunmen survive Sabah raid”.  


    Headline-writing can be tricky. A tabloid headline writer  might have bannered:  “ ‘I’m alive!!’ – Sulu commander”.

     I know that you want your headlines to be short and crisp,  but not at the cost of sacrificing correctness, or of avoiding loaded words, especially in conflict-reporting.

     Here’s the Agence France Presse story, it also appears in my news site : for a comprehensive coverage of the Sabah conflict with 12 stories and 12 angles on the confrontation, pls click: 

12reports carpet-bombing Sabah March6, 13 What’s Trending marichulambino

   (i also have soft news on that site from Readers Digest, Vegetarian Society, Good Housekeeping, Yahoo Shine, New York Times, etc. — see for yourself!)

        “Manila, Philippines – Filipinos loyal to the former Sultan of Sulu survived a bombing raid and ground offensive launched by Malaysian security forces on Tuesday, the group’s spokesman said.


“More than 200 men loyal to the sultan who have been in Malaysia’s Sabah state for about 3 weeks moved outside the area that was attacked before the offensive operation began, the sultan’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, told AFP.


“ “They heard a lot of explosions and saw two bombs being dropped by Malaysian aircraft,” Idjirani said in Manila. “But this was happening away from where he and his men are.”


“Following the morning air raid, Malaysia’s national police chief said that “mopping up” operations had yet to find any dead militants, but expressed fears that at least some of them might have slipped away.


“Idjirani said he spoke with the leader of the armed men in Sabah by telephone at 3:00 pm (0700 GMT).


“ “They are fine,” Idjirani said.


“Jamalul Kiram III, a self-styled Filipino Muslim sultan, sent the men to Sabah in a bid to enforce the sultanate’s centuries-old ownership claim on the state.


“On Tuesday afternoon, Malaysian officials and the Malaysian media reported that their army defeated the Filipino gunmen. The Star newspaper of Malaysia said, quoting police sources: “The Sulu armed group was totally routed by [the] Malaysian security forces’ overwhelming firepower.” “

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