Although the Dangerous Drugs Act requires that the inventory and documentation of suspected narcotics that authorities seize in operations is done in the presence of witnesses this should not be taken to mean that law enforcement personnel have the authority to force members of the media to act as witnesses and sign inventories.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has taken the position since 2018 that the law should be amended to remove media workers as official witnesses in drug operations since this can put them at risk of retaliation from drug suspects and of contempt of court if they fail to attend hearings if the case goes on trial. The requirement in the law also means that journalists who cover drug operations could find themselves isolated from police sources or deprived of access to information if they refuse.
We welcome the National Bureau of Investigation’s apology over attempts by its personnel to coerce some of our colleagues — including the use of homophobic slurs — to sign during a recent anti-drug operation.
NUJP reminds the media community that while we may be assigned to cover law enforcement operations and that while it is our duty to report on these operations, the burden of ensuring that these are done according to due process and the law is on the authorities.
Our role as journalists is the best way to act as witnesses to drug raids and other law enforcement operations without signing government affidavits and forms. #
(March 17, 2023)