Statement April 7, 2017
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s totally unjustified behavior toward Businessworld reporter Janina Lim, who she cursed and maligned Thursday for simply doing her job.
It is doubly unfortunate that Ms. Lopez, the scion of a family intimately involved in media, should justify her boorishness toward Ms. Lim by blaming one of the qualities indispensable to being a journalist – persistence.
A recording of Ms. Lopez’s tirade captured her berating Lim of being “just a f—ing employee” and asking the reporter why she did not have a “heart for the poor.”
Ms. Lim was simply asking Ms. Lopez to elaborate on her order for miners to set aside more funds apart from what they are required to contribute to a “rehabilitation fund” for formerly mined lands but the DENR secretary berated Lim and another colleague, telling them: “You know, you guys should do your work, but why don’t you have a heart for the poor? Where’s your heart?”
When Ms. Lim tried to follow up, Ms. Lopez turned on her and said: “You know you are so young and you’re already bought by the greed and selfishness.”
It was at this point that Ms. Lim finally answered Ms. Lopez squarely, saying: “I was not bought, Ma’am. I was not bought. Thank you. Thank you.”
Ms. Lopez subsequently sent a message to Businessworld attempting to explain her side. If anything, however, she only helped indict herself even more.
She claimed she was late and rushing to a TV interview when accosted by Lim in a stairway and was piqued because she had “often been irritated” by the “line of questioning” of the “young and persistent reporter.”
“She was not the best person to meet while rushing for an appointment. So I lost my cool with her,” Ms. Lopez said in her message to Businessworld.
She also attempted to blame Lim for recording “a repartee that took place in a stairway” that, she claimed, should have been “left in the privacy for which it is meant,” even hinting the whole incident seemed to be “like looking for some kind of hole to punch.”
When does being “irritated” by a “persistent reporter” give a public official or anyone else for that matter the right to verbally abuse them?
If, indeed, Ms. Lim had consistently and persistently shown objectionable or offensive behavior in the course of her work, Ms. Lopez could easily have communicated this with the reporter’s superiors and asked that the situation be rectified.
And no, Ms. Lopez, what happened was not “repartee.” It was a legitimate attempt by a journalist to interview you on an issue related to your work and, thus, of public interest.
If you were, as you claim, in a hurry because you were late for an interview, you could have simply said so or even ignored the question. Instead, you actually took the time to stop and insult Ms. Lim and, worse, belittled her for being “just a f—ing employee,” as if honest toil were something to be ashamed of.
Ms. Lopez, your zeal for the causes close to your heart can never justify your despicable treatment of Ms. Lim. If anything, such a mindset, which brooks no questioning or dissent, is anathema to democracy.
We demand that you apologize to Ms. Lim and pledge to be more open to questioning. This is the least you can do. #