Philippine, global media groups blast Tel Aviv’s attack on Al Jazeera

Philippine media organizations condemned the State of Israel’s closure of Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel as an attack on press freedom and the people’s right to information.

In separate statements, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) and the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) said Tel Aviv’s action is an attempt to hide Israel’s military operations.

The zionist state is engaged in a war against Palestinian freedom fighters in Gaza as well as against Iran.

The NUJP said the more than 100 journalists and media workers, including from Al Jazeera, have been killed since Israel’s assault on Gaza started and those who remain in the besieged territory report at great personal risk.

“[T]he Al Jazeera shutdown is an insult not just to their courage and dedication but also to the supposed free flow of information to the world,” the NUJP said.

IAWRT Philippines for its part said Al Jazeera’s closure in Israel undermines press freedom and restricts access to independent journalism, “particularly where providing diverse perspectives and reporting on critical issues such as the ongoing conflict in Palestine.”

The shutdown comes after Israel’s parliament passed a law allowing the closure of foreign media outlets it claims as “a threat to security.”

IAWRT pointed out that women journalists at Al Jazeera have been at the forefront of reporting from conflict zones and how wars impact marginalized communities.

“This will also exacerbate the safety challenges that they have long been facing, including how their bureau chief Wael Dahdouh was wounded in an Israeli strike while Samer Abudaqa was killed while reporting in Southern Gaza,” the group said.

Tel Aviv’s decision may also lead to a chilling effect on journalists who are exposing the atrocities and war crimes being inflicted on Palestine, IAWRT Philippines said.

“Most importantly, this silences and suppresses people’s voices on the ground, and hinders their search for justice and accountability,” it added.

The FOCAP said it stands in solidarity with Al Jazeera and other media workers covering the Israeli-Gaza war and its closure by Israel “is another form of death for the free press.”

“Al Jazeera has been at the forefront of unflinching reporting, providing a platformfor marginalized voices in Gaza and other Palestinian territories. The shutdown leaves a void in global news coverage of the conflict. In a time of war, such a news blackout is a matter of life and death,” the group said.

IAWRT Philippines said it also stands in solidarity with Al Jazeera journalists, especially its women reporters, and expresses its concern about the impact the shutdown may have on reporting from the region.

NUJP added that as Filipino journalists are still recovering from government attempts to silence newsrooms for justifications similar to Tel Aviv’s, cannot be quiet when it happens elsewhere.

“Newsroom shutdowns threaten livelihoods, decrease access to information and subtract from the truth that the profession is supposed to look for and report,” NUJP said.

A respected global broadcaster and news source, Al Jazeera is based and partly funded by the Qatar government.

(Altermidya file photo)

Condemnations around the world

Abroad, the Foreign Press Association, an organization representing foreign correspondents in the region said Israel’s attack on Al Jazeera’s headquarters is “a dark day for the media (and) a dark day for democracy.”

“We urge the (Israeli) government to reverse this harmful step and uphold its commitment to freedom of the press – including outlets whose coverage it may not like,” FPA said.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNOHCHR) also criticized the move, saying it regrets the Benjamin Netanyahu regime’s decision.

“A free and independent media is essential to ensuring transparency and accountability, now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza. Freedom of expression is a key human right. We urge govt to overturn ban,” the UNOHCHR said.

United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the closure and the blocking of the channel’s websites. 

 “This move sets an extremely alarming precedent for restricting international media outlets working in Israel. The Israeli cabinet must allow Al-Jazeera and all international media outlets to operate freely in Israel, especially during wartime,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York said.

Reporters Without Borders (Rapporteurs Sans Fronteires, RSF) denounced  Israel’s “repressive legislation” that now censor’s Al Jazeera’s critical coverage of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 34,700 Palestinians since it began on 7 October.  

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in its own condemnation also raised concerns about the confiscation of journalists’ personal work equipment and phones.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “What possible motivation could there be for snatching phones and computers, save for trying to discover the journalists’ sources – this violates the most elemental rights of reporters to protect their sources”.

“Banning journalists and shutting down broadcasters are moves straight from the despots playbook. This is a further departure by the Israeli government from the respect for a free media expected of a democracy. We have already seen foreign reporters banned from Gaza, attacks on Israel’s domestic media, and truly shocking treatment of Palestinian journalists,” Bellanger added.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), representing Palestinian journalists working for Al Jazeera said: “We condemn this decision, which targets freedom of expression and the ability of journalists to do their work. It is indicative of the desperation of the occupation government.”

The National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom and Ireland (NUJ-UK&I) said: Those with secrets to hide or who are ashamed of their actions forcibly close down television stations.”

“Targeting Al Jazeera as the Israeli government has is a direct attack on free speech that brings shame on those responsible – I hope they will soon realise their error and reverse this decision,” NUJ-UK&I general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

IAWRT community radio coordinator abducted in Cebu

Elena “Lina” Tijamo was forcibly taken from her home in Bantayan, Cebu in the Philippines in the evening of June 13.

by Sarah De Leon

Elena, 58, is the program coordinator for sustainable agriculture FARDEC,  non-profit, non-government organization that offers paralegal and educational services to farmers facing land issues. She is also the Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC in Bantayan Island, Cebu. It has a radio program, Radyo Sugbuanon in partnership with the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Philippines.

Suspected military elements—four armed masked men in civilian clothes accompanied by two women—held back family members while they covered Tijamo’s mouth with tape, tied her hands, and took her away. Elena remains missing after more than four days.

Elena’s sister Violeta Tijamo reported the incident at the police station.

Based on Violeta’s account, around 8:00pm after dinner of 13 June, 2020, all six members of the Tijamo household retired to their rooms to rest, except Elena who remained at the dinner table to work. Violeta went out of her room due to dogs barking and a commotion coming from outside. She saw two women toting pistols inside the house by the kitchen door holding Elena whose hands were tied behind her back and her mouth plastered by masking tape. An armed man was positioned in the front door at the sala, while another three armed men were positioned in the kitchen.

Violeta asked the men in Cebuano, “What are you going to do with my sister when she commited no offense?”

They heard one of the male perpetrators replied, “Her husband committed a major offense” and another was overheard saying “This house does not recognize a government.”

Elena and Violeta’s elderly parents, who were with them in the house that time and who are both deaf, was unaware of the incident when it happened.

FARDEC relayed that from the night Elena was taken, her family members received text messages instructing them not to contact the authorities and Lina would be able to go home later.

The following day, they received calls where they were able to speak to Lina who told them that she will be released if social media posts such as the one by Karapatan Central Visayas and news reports of her abduction such as the one by Rappler would be taken down.

Last May 24, Elena reported to the human rights group that a man claiming to conduct a survey for elderly beneficiaries of COVID-19 assistance visited her home but asked about her personal details instead. She later found out that the barangay had no knowledge of a survey.

The government returned Cebu to the ‘enhanced community quarantine’ protocol, also known as total lockdown, from June 16 and this has hampered the family and FARDEC’s search for Elena.

The incident happened while the much-protested “Anti-Terrorism Bill” in the Philippines is in the process of becoming law. The said bill was transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte by Philippine Congress on June 9 and the Office of the President said it is undergoing review but Duterte is “inclined” to sign it.

The bill, fast-tracked from May 29 and approved in Congress three sessions later, was condemned by all quarters of Philippine society—media, schools, lawyers, church, business, celebrities, etc. for the broad definition of terrorism that may be used against critics. It also features an Anti-Terrorism Council made up of presidential appointees in the Cabinet who will have powers similar that to a trial court and a judge, such as designating terrorist tags and approving warrantless arrests. The bill also prescribes 14 to 24 days of warrantless arrest and detention that many found to be violative of the Philippine Constitution that allows only up to three days even during martial law when the writ of habeas corpus is suspended.

Habambuhay na kulong sa mga Ampatuan

Hinatulan ng habambuhay na pagkabilanggo ang mga pangunahing akusado sa malagim na Ampatuan masaker noong 2009. Matapos ang sampung taong paglilitis ay makukulong sina Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., Datu Anwar Sajid Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan at Anwar Ampatuan, Sr.

Sampung taong naghintay ang mga pamilya at kaanak ng mga biktima ng malagim na masaker noong Nobyembre 23, 2009 para sa makabuluhang sentensiya ni Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes. Mayroong 58 katao ang pinaslang sa Amapatuan, Maguindanao at 32 sa mga biktima ay mga mamamahayag. Ang malagim na pagpatay na naganap lamang sa isang araw ang naglagay sa Pilipinas bilang pangalawang mapanganib na bansa para sa mga mamamahayag sa buong mundo.

Ang pagbabasa ng hatol ay naganap noong Disyembre 19 ng taong kasalukuyan sa Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

Bidyo ni Arrem Alcaraz/Larawan ni Lito Ocampo

IAWRT, charging towards the future

Travelling almost 10,000 kilometers to the other side of the globe, four members of the Philippine chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) attended the organization’s Regional Conference in Entebbe, Uganda from October 2-5, 2018

Themed “IAWRT Looking into the Future,” the global event gathered 50 participants from five continents representing 11 of the 14 IAWRT chapters worldwide.

IAWRT International President Violet Gonda in her opening speech underscored the importance of the conference as a milestone in IAWRT’s events calendar.

“It is here that we will share with the members the work done in the last 10 months of the new leadership. More importantly, it is here that members will get involved in mapping out the road ahead for the association,” Gonda said.

IAWRT is moving quickly into the future, its officers said. At the conference, two new chapters were formally acknowledged, Afghanistan and Iraq-Kurdistan, represented by their respective chapter heads, Najiba Ayubi and Awaz Salim Abdulla.

The conference also created a new Committee for Chapter Development with the objective of strengthening chapter capacities and capabilities.

This brings the number of committees created by the current leadership to 12 in the span of just 10 months, which Gonda noted is the biggest in IAWRT history.

Some of the other committees created are the following: 1) Committee in Relation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women; 2) Scholarship Committee; 3) Gender Mainstreaming Committee; 4) Asian Film Festival Committee; 5) Rural Women and Media Committee; 6) Community Radio Committee; and 7) The Gender Based Online Harassments Committee.

Meanwhile, IAWRT’s 2018 full-length video documentary “Displacement and Resilience: Women Live For A New Day” was launched at the conference that features the stories of five women refugees from Syria, Tibet, Myanmar and the Philippines. Segments of the video were directed by five individual members from the said countries.

“Displacement and Resilience” presented the following:

  1. The stories of Mariam and Haifa, two Syrian women who fled Allepo and are now seeking refuge in two different countries, as told by Eva Anandi Brownstein and Khedija Lemkecher, respectively;
  2. The story of Namgyal from the Tibet Movement for Self Determination, as told by Afrah Shafiq of India;
  3. The story of Lumad indigenous peoples leader Bai Bibiaon, as told by Erika Rae Cruz of the Philippines; and
  4. The stories about the Rohingya Refugee Crises of Myanmar, as told by IAWRT Board member Archana Kapoor together with Chandita Mukherjee.

Mukherjee also served as the executive producer of the entire project who was responsible for combining these five stories into one documentary.

The International Board and the Philippine chapter launched Amplifying the People’s Voices: The Philippine Community Radio Experience and Challenges, a handbook on community radio prepared by IAWRT-Philippines recounting three decades of community radio experience in the country at the conference.

A workshop on community radio was conducted during the conference that showed participants how a community radio narrowcast program is organized and held. It was facilitated by IAWRT-USA’s  Sheila Katzman with the Philippine Chapter delegates.

In addition, the conference approved two new organizational documents: the Code of Conduct and Election Guidelines.

Lastly, the membership also affirmed the International Board’s decision to set-up an International Secretariat office in the Philippines.

IAWRT-Philippines head Jola Diones Mangun welcomed the decision, saying “the Philippine chapter is elated and honored with the decision.”

“We will do our best for IAWRT as it charges towards the future,” Mamangun added.

The Conference ended with the members extending the term and mandate of the International Board until 2020.  # (Report by Walkie Miraña / Slideshow by Lady Ann Salem)



Police denies Kodao’s inquiry on arrested journos

Kodao Productions went to the police station in Meycauayan, Bulacan Monday afternoon to cover and verify the arrest of fellow Altermidya reporters. This is an audio recording of the exchange between Kodao executive director Jola Diones-Mamangun and police officers inside the police station. (Editing by Film Weekly)