The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) urges the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stop treating journalists who covered the failed Magdalo uprising as enemies of the state.
We protest in strongest terms the PNP’s move to forcibly bring some journalists to the National Capital Region Police Office in Bicutan and condemn the confiscation of video footage of the day-long stand-off at the Manila Peninsula Hotel.
We denounce the overkill that led to the tying of the hands of members of ABS-CBN’s technical team and reporters in what looked like a virtual arrest. The explanation by police officials and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro that the move was made to prevent the escape of Magdalo troops does not wash.
The technical team had superiors who could have been asked to verify their identities. And, certainly, there is no reason police officials would be ignorant of the identities of reporters Pinky Webb and Ces Drilon.
While we concede the PNP’s right to conduct a thorough investigation of a crime–and we do not dispute that the takeover of the Peninsula was a crime–the police ought to follow legal procedures. Invitations to questioning should be differentiated from coercion; journalists have the option to accept the invitation and, certainly, should be accorded the basic right to counsel.
We concede authorities’ right to demand a halt to coverage that could jeopardize the lives of state security forces but believe any move for redress should pass through normal channels, involving management of television stations and not lowly ground staff.
While journalists’ refusal to leave the Pen when ordered by the cops could have jeopardized their lives, live footage of the Pen standoff showed they did not block authorities from doing their tasks. Nor is their little to support suspicions that media showed bias for Trillanes and company; if anything the rebels complained about media’s alleged bias for government.
It is regrettable that a day that would have given the government a clear-cut political victory would be marred by knee-jerk reactions of the authorities. This government claims it is protecting democracy. It should realize that media is a prime component of the democracy it purports to serve.
Jose Torres, Jr.