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Media groups warn against publication of Duterte’s narco-list without verification

Media groups cautioned journalists and editors against publishing Malacañan’s list of public officials allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade.

In a joint statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; Philippine Press Institute; Center for Community Journalism and Development; Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; Mindanews and the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network said that both the government and the media can not play fast and loose with due process and rule of law.

The groups said that, without verification, the publication of the so-called narco-politicians list including 82 candidates in the May elections is a denial of due process and presumption of innocence for those on the list.

The groups added that the hasty publication of the list is a violation of the journalistic values of fairness, accuracy, and independence.

“Instead of rushing to print or air, we now urge all our colleagues to exercise utter prudence and fastidious judgment in evaluating this ‘story,’” the groups said.

The media organizations said publication of the government’s list redounds to mere trial by publicity of political rivals, and a publicity stunt for the public and the news media’s transient amusement without convincing proof or cases filed in the courts.

“Such naming and shaming calls attention to the possible invasion of privacy, as well as denial of due process and presumption of innocence, for those on the list,” the groups explained.

“Once published or broadcast, the travesty will be magnified as a collective disregard for the rule of law, and a clear breach of the time-honored traditions of fair, accurate, and independent journalism, by the news media,” they explained.

’82 candidates’

Duterte’s list, based on still to be verified intelligence reports and wiretapped information received from foreign governments, reportedly includes 82 candidates.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino, however, said he is against the release of the list, adding that his agency has yet to re-validate it.

“As of now, there is an instruction for PDEA to disclose list. [But] I can’t do it right now because we have not finished the re-validation of the narco-politicians,” Aquino said.

Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez also said the government must “convict first” before those on the list could be disqualified as candidates.

The media groups urged the National Bureau of Investigation to validate the list’s contents before the authorities could build cases and file the appropriate charges against the alleged narco-politicians.

“Rather than seek publicity for its unverified ‘narco list’ story, the Duterte Administration should waste no time to build cases, file charges, prosecute, and send to jail the guilty, if indeed it had proof and evidence on hand,” the media groups said.

‘Verify, verify, verify’ 

The media groups said publishing Duterte’s list may open news outfits to libel suits should those named choose to file charges as Panelo suggested.

They said that taking Malacañan’s word at face value, reporting its claims uncritically, and rushing to print or broadcast just a list that tags people without proof are not without serious consequences.

“All these could put the life and liberty of persons in serious peril; all these could put the ethics and credibility of the journalism profession in serious doubt,” they said.

“Verify, verify, verify. And do so independently. That is the first thing that the news media can and should do, before running a list that tags and links people to hateful crimes, on the mere say-so of the President and his political lieutenants,” they added.

“We, journalists and media organizations can, at the very least, refuse to play along when the government and those who are supposed to lead the nation play fast and loose with due process and the rule of law,” the groups said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP hails media workers’ victory vs GMA contractualization

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) hailed the Court of Appeals (CA) decision declaring former talents of broadcast giant GMA network as regular workers.

“We congratulate our colleagues in the Talents Association of GMA (TAG) for courageously sustaining and winning the struggle for their rights and welfare,” the NUJP said in a statement, praising the workers’ unity and determination to fight for their rights as an inspiration to all media workers.

In a 19-page February 20 decision, the CA’s Special 14th Division upheld an earlier decision by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) declaring more than a hundred GMA network talents as regular employees.

The CA also junked the petition for certiorari filed by GMA 7 management, saying it lacked merit.

The appellate court said the talents are regular employees and production crew members who undoubtedly performed functions necessary and essential to GMA’s broadcasting business.

“Truly, without their work, petitioner GMA would have nothing to air, hence the private respondents’ services in the former’s television program were unquestionably necessary and essential,” the decision reads.

Written by Associate Justice Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles, the decision also said that the workers contracts have been repeatedly renewed, indicating the necessity and desirability of their (talents’) work in the usual course of GMA’s business.

The decision also said the four-fold test to determine employer-employee relationship was established: selection and engagement of the employee, payment of wages, power of dismissal, and power to control the employee’s conduct.

In June 4, 2014, TAG, composed mostly of contractual employees, filed a complaint with the NLRC.

It also held a protest rally on June 4, 2014 before the GMA headquarters, along with supportive organizations such as the NUJP and the Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Several TAG members were eventually fired for participating in the rally.

In a statement, TAG said it welcomes the decision declaring they are regular workers.

“But the purpose was always clear to us — to shine the light on a prevalent issue that affects millions of Filipinos and to increase the pressure on companies and the government, to stop this unjust, inhumane and illegal labor treatment. To not do so would be to turn our backs on our duties as journalists,” the group said.

The NUJP called on the owners and managers of GMA Network to do right by their workers and immediately implement the CA decision.

The union also urged all media houses to end their contractualization policies and engage their employees in crafting ways to improve their welfare. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

THE STATE OF PHILIPPINE MEDIA

Relentless Attacks And Threats

Online, On Ground, Across the Nation

23 November 2018

 

 By the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR),

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines,

Philippine Press Institute (PPI),

MindaNews, and

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

ATTACKS AND THREATS against the Philippine media — acute and creeping, online and offline, deadly and debilitating — continue to rise under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

In the 28 months of the Duterte presidency, or from July 1, 2016 to Oct. 31, 2018, we have documented at least 99 such cases of direct and indirect assaults against journalists and news media agencies.

Separately and together, these continue to put at risk and serious peril the practice of independent journalism in what had hitherto been hailed to be one of Asia’s freest and most rambunctious press.

This latest figure, 99 in all, is bigger than the 85 cases that we have documented until April 30, 2018, or in the first 22 months of Duterte. But in the succeeding six months, more of the more dreadful cases had occurred.

Three more journalists had been killed — for a total of 12 under the Duterte presidency’s 28-month rule. From July 1, 2016 to last May 1, nine journalists had been killed in the line of duty.

Just as worrisome, the count of other cases of attacks on media freedom had also marked increases. For instance:

* Online harassment cases had risen from 14 to 17;

* Slay attempts, from 6 to 7 cases;

* Verbal assault or threat (mostly from public officials), from one to five cases;

* Arrests, from zero to three cases; and

* One more case of intimidation (from 5 to 6) and one more case of physical assault (from 4 to 5), had also been recorded in the last six months.

An aggregate 11 cases of threat by SMS or text messaging, and five cases of verbal threat have also happened in the 28 months of Duterte.

One more cyber libel case had been filed, bringing the new total to four, from three last May.

However, the 16 libel cases recorded as of last May have thinned to 12 by end-October 2018, on account of the dismissal or resolution of four cases.

In sum, the 99 cases of attacks and threats in the 28 months of the Duterte presidency consist of:

  • Online harassment, 17 cases;
  • Killing, 12;
  • Libel, 12;
  • Threat by SMS, 11;
  • Slay attempt, 7;
  • Intimidation 6;
  • Verbal threat/assault, 5;
  • Physical assault, 5;
  • Website attack, 4;
  • Cyber libel, 4;
  • Arrest, 3;
  • Corporation-related case, 3;
  • Barred from coverage, 3;
  • Physical harassment, 3;
  • Article takedown, 2;
  • Strafing/shooting incident, 2;

By alleged perpetrator or suspect, it is most significant that nearly half or 44 of the cases involved state agents or public officials.

They include 13 local government officials; 11 officers of the Philippine National Police; 6 national government officials; three officers each of the Presidential Security Group and of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; two cases each involving, ironically, an official of the Presidential Special Task Force on Media Killings (PTFOMS) and of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and one case involving the director of the Philippine Information Agency.

Apart from the state agents/agencies, the other alleged perpetrators or suspects behind the attacks and threats follow:

  • Online partisan trolls, 16;
  • Still unidentified, 14;
  • Private citizen, 12;
  • Anonymous caller, 7;
  • Unknown attacker (website), 4;
  • No data, 1; and
  • Alleged NPA, 1.

 By gender, 59 cases targeted male journalists and 23 female journalists. Another 17 cases were directed at media organizations.

By platform, 33 cases involved journalists and agencies from radio; 30 online media; 23 print media; 11 television networks; 1 photojournalist; and 1 multimedia journalist.

By islands of the country, 66 cases were recorded in Luzon, 12 in the Visayas, and 21 in Mindanao.

By regions of the country, the spread of the cases follows:

  • NCR (Metro Manila), 41 cases;
  • Region III (Central Luzon), 8;
  • Region XIII (CARAGA), 7;
  • Region V (Bicol Region), 6;
  • Region VIII (Eastern Visayas), 5;
  • Region XI (Davao Region), 5;
  • Region IV-A (Calabarzon), 5;
  • Region IX (Western Mindanao), 5;
  • Region I (Ilocos Region), 4;
  • Region XII (SOCCKSARGEN), 4;
  • Region VI (Western Visayas), 4;
  • Region VII (Central Visayas), 3; and
  • CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), 2.

 Imperatives: Unity, vigilance, action

All around the world, the decline of democracy may have muted the voices protesting attacks and threats against the press and journalists. Indeed in some countries governments have gained support for reining in and restraining the press, even regulating and controlling its practice.

The prospects for press freedom and citizen support for journalists are endangered in a period of rising authoritarianism. Citizens have been misled to support the ascent of autocratic leaders promising quick solutions to embedded ills. Citizens have been made to believe that the democratic experiment has failed; thus a new order must be created where the people’s interests come first, even at the sacrifice of inalienable freedoms.

Recent Philippine history shows that popular submission to a regime of control and acceptance of the suspension of basic civil and political rights, including the freedom of the press and expression, have led to serious repercussions, not least of which are a treasury beggared by crony capitalism, an educational system in shambles, and a press intimidated into silence that has kept the public ignorant of the true state of the nation.

In over two years of the Duterte administration, Filipinos have once again played along with the seductive pledge of quick fixes. But democratic development is a slow process, and can be exhausting.

Sadly, the press is confronted once again with multiple challenges:  a beleaguered state of affairs entails full discourse on issues of governance, the wayward conduct of certain public officials and state agencies that require close scrutiny, their failures investigated, and accountability and responsibility clearly defined.

The news media are central to the capability of a national community to think out these problems, with leaders in constant conversation not just amongst themselves; but openly analyzing and explaining what these issues involve and what can be done to move to fair and speedy action and solutions.

Journalists must commit to learning more about the background of the news in order to more faithfully report, or interpret the meaning of what is happening.

Yet still, the culture of impunity, the failed observance of human rights by state agents; the vulnerability of journalists to legal threats or worse, lies, to a great extent within the ambit of the courts; the application of rules and procedures that delay justice; the bias of these procedures for the rich accused of crimes on display by officers of the law; the richly paid legal eagles drawn into service of defending those with the means to afford their extravagant fees, linger in our midst.

Journalists, unlike government officials are not sworn into office, but the practice is based on a sacred trust — protected by no less than the Constitution — to provide the news and information that the people need to know about, with analysis and interpretation so citizens can make sense of what is going on and formulate sound judgments and decisions.

The restoration of democracy in the years that followed the fall of the Marcos dictatorship have gathered advocates around the task of protecting and defending press freedom and the safety and welfare of journalists.

But today under the Duterte administration, never has so much darkness hovered over the prospects of free and independent journalism since the democratic recovery of 1986.

How does the media react to this?

It goes timid or it joins the side where political power resides, receiving extra compensation for its efforts. We do not deny the corruption has been an effective silencer of the news that citizens need to know.

Sadly, the observation has been made that the news media has been intimidated into silence on so many issues. There remains, however, a great many journalists who continue to report on stories that may put their lives in danger.

Those who have joined in the collective resolve to stand up and insist on the freedom to report, on the free flow of information, not just for journalists but for all citizens;  those who speak on behalf of those who are attacked and threatened, besieged, and beleaguered, must learn to work together, gaining strength from one another!

Today, the ninth anniversary of the Ampatauan Massacre of Nov. 23, 2009, we call on Filipinos to support press freedom and to come to the defense of those in media who struggle working within the narrowing space and time, to counter false narratives and disinformation, and to check the abuse of power.

Even in small measures, the exercise of freedom strengthens and nurtures the human spirit, invigorate the energies that will empower citizens to speak truth to power. Hope springs from in the power of truth to make us all informed and free.

In a similarly distressing time, journalists need to reach out to one another and build alliances so they can altogether secure the channels and platforms for truth.

That struggle must acknowledge the perils of the exercise, but also the great power of solidarity and sustained defense of press freedom and the people’s right to know.

The victims of attacks and threats against media freedom may be fewer than the other victims of violence in Philippine society today. But these target and weaken the institution that provides and sustains for all citizens the conversation about issues that matter, and upholds the integrity of political communication, without which the press cannot check the abuse of power.

And so we must work to keep a record of lives lost, or rights denied or diminished, of access limited or eliminated, of attacks and threats that rob us of our peace, safety, and freedoms.

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)

 

IAWRT, CHARGING TOWARDS THE FUTURE

Int’l group launches book on Philippine community broadcasting

ENTEBBE, Uganda–The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) launched a book on community radio broadcasting in the Philippines, narrating its nearly three-decade history and laying down the challenges it faces in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world.

Entitled Amplifying the People’s Voices: The Philippine Community Radio Experience and Challenges, the 72-page book was launched by its President Violet Gonda and Philippine Chapter head Jola Diones-Mamangun in Kampala, Uganda during the group’s regional conference.

The book chronologically narrates how community radio broadcasting in the Philippines started in the 1990s as well as the problems it faces to this day.

Produced for IAWRT by its Philippine chapter, the book also recounts how current broadcasting laws in the country make it difficult for low-power radio stations to acquire franchises and licenses from government institutions.

Gonda said radio is one of the oldest and important forms of media in communications.

“A number of our members represent the various tiers of radio – public, private and community. The Philippine chapter has been pioneering a project, the Mobile Disaster Radio, which is the need of the hour – with the problems of climate change, regular cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis which have become a part of our life,” Gonda said.

“This project targets vulnerable communities to prepare them better for the unseen disasters, from risk to preparednes. It began in 2014, and  is giving voice to the voiceless and empowering women to be prepared and reduce loss to lives and properties,” she added.

Through IAWRT funding, the chapter has managed to set up transmitters in the most disaster prone communities and provided computers, cables, mobile phone units for the reporters and training and mentoring exercises to empower the local communities in various provinces in the Visayas region.

The book recalls how one of the first community radio stations, Radyo Cagayano, was attacked and burned by unknown persons, suspected to be members of the Philippine Army, in 2006, setting back the planned establishment of more stations by several years.

The Philippines is deemed by Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists and other global media groups as among the most dangerous countries for journalists, with 184 media workers killed since the supposed return of democracy in the country in 1986.

The majority of media workers killed are provincial broadcasters, as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in several of its reports.

However, Diones-Mamangun, also IAWRT International treasurer and Kodao Productions executive director, said the book is less about the campaign’s problems but more about its successes despite overwhelming odds.

“We want this book’s readers to realize that whatever successes the community broadcasting movement in the Philippines has achieved are due to the communities’ determination to tell their own stories through radio,” Diones-Mamangun said.

“The lesson here is that community radio broadcasting will never happen without the communities themselves.”

Gonda added that IAWRT is happy to have published a community radio handbook to share the group’s journey and for its to learn from experiences.

“There could be no better place than Uganda to release this publication as there is a strong presence of community radio here,” Gonda said.

Aside from Diones-Mamangun, the Philippine delegation to the Uganda conference include IAWRT Philippine chapter vice president Prof. Lynda Garcia and members Walkie Mirana and Lady Ann Salem. #

NUJP-Batangas slams PNP’s policy on no media access to spot reports

By Lottie Salarda / NUJP Media Safety Office

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Batangas Chapter slammed a new Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office IV-A policy disallowing members of the local media to access spot police reports “unless a clearance is secured from its national headquarters.”

The policy has been enforced since June 19, 2018, the local media group said.

NUJP Batangas said they were notified through the official email address of Batangas PNP.

Marlon Luistro, GMA Network’s stringer in Batangas said he was informed by Batangas PNP PIO Police Senior Inspector Hazel Luma-ang Suarez that the prohibition is in accordance with existing national policy.

 “Lahat ng police stations (ng Batangas), ayaw magbigay ng police report. Itinuturo lahat sa PIO nila. Hindi nagbibigay ng information ang Chiefs of Police nila. Nagtataka kami bakit hindi nila binibigay iyon. Yung ibinibigay lang nila ay yung mga press release ng mga accomplishments nila,” Luistro said.

“Sa bago nilang policy hindi na namin naibabalita ang ibang nangyayari, katulad ng stabbing, shooting incident at iba pa,” Luistro added.

Luistro learned, however, that there is no such policy in place in other provinces.

Batangas journalists wrote to Chief PNP Police Director General Oscar Albayalde last September 24 to seek clarification but have yet to receive a reply.

They have also requested a dialogue with Albayalde as well as Batangas and Calabarzon police directors.

Upon learning of their letter to the Chief PNP, PSI Suarez called Luistro on his cellphone asking why Luistro’s group brought the issue before the office of the Chief PNP.

Luistro told Suarez that they only wanted clarification on the new policy from Albayalde himself. #

NUJP slams Dureza for ‘irresponsbile journalism’ remark

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) slammed presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza for his “irresponsible journalism” accusation against several news outfits, adding the official owes journalists an apology.

In a statement Tuesday, June 19, the NUJP said Dureza is too quick to hurl accusations of irresponsible journalism against news outfits that reported that Norway would no longer be the third-party facilitator for peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

In a Facebook post, Dureza stated Monday the media report saying Norway is being removed or is no longer “facilitator” in the peace negotiations between the philippine government and the communist rebels is a total fabrication.

“It is an example of irresponsible journalism,” Dureza added.

The NUJP, however, did not take Dureza’s statement sitting down, saying he should have checked presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s claim against the record

“[Dureza], at the very least, should be aware that the source of the story, presidential spokesman Harry Roque, has built a reputation for prevarication within an administration that has time and again proven itself to be the prime purveyor of falsehood and, in fact, has welcomed experts of this dark craft into the bureaucracy.”

NUJP pointed out that during the question and answer portion of Roque’s press briefing at Malacañan Monday morning, CNN Philippines’ Ina Andolong asked whether President Rodrigo Duterte wanted the talks held in the country “and not be facilitated by Norway” and what the formal process for transferring the venue might be.

NUJP said Roque did not give an unequivocal reply to these questions, prompting Andolong to ask further: “Who will be facilitating the talks here then?”

Wala na po siguro, nandito na naman tayo sa Pilipinas,” Roque replied, adding President Rordrigo Duterte could not understand why the peace negotiations have to be held abroad. (Perhaps there would no longer be one, as we are here in the Philippines already.)

That “Perhaps there would no longer be one” is what many news outfits reported, NUJP said.

The NUJP said that while Dureza had reason enough to worry about the reports, the fault lay not with media but with the government’s all too often muddled communications, particularly Roque who eventually tried to weasel his way out of a bad situation by claiming, in a subsequent statement, that he had only talked about Duterte’s wish for the talks to be held in the country.

In a subsequent statement, Roque said that he hopes the record is set straight that what he said was that any peace negotiation that would be entered into by the Philippine government and the NDFP should be held inside the country, referring to the venue of the talks.

But the NUJP said that records are clear that Roque is, “at best, cherry picking through his words, at worst, brazenly twisting the truth.”

“Which seems par for the course as far as this administration goes,” NUJP added.

NUJP said Dureza, himself a former reporter, owes the journalists he wrongly accused an apology.

“And while, truth to tell, we do not expect one, we would love to be surprised,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Malaysia’s new government urged to implement media reforms

By Mong Palatino/Global Voices

Civil society groups are urging Malaysia’s new government to uphold its election campaign pledge of enacting reforms in governance which include the abolition of laws that undermine free speech.

On May 9, 2018, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) party defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) which has dominated Malaysian politics over the past 60 years. BN’s defeat was attributed to the people’s clamor for a change in leadership after former Prime Minister Najib Razak was implicated in several corruption scandals. The Najib government was also accused of using repressive laws to detain opposition leaders, intimidate critics, and censor the media.

During the campaign period, PH released a manifesto which listed some of the immediate reforms it will implement if it succeeds in the polls such as the establishment of a media council made up of media leaders and the revision of all draconian laws.

Now that PH is the head of the new government, various civil society groups are reminding it to fulfill its commitment to reverse the oppressive laws, policies, and programs existing under the previous ruling party.

Amnesty International reiterated its proposed human rights agenda, which includes:

…rights to freedom of expression and association, better protections for refugees and people seeking asylum, respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protecting LGBTI individuals, abolishing the death penalty and ending the persecution of human rights defenders.

The Lawyers for Liberty asked the new government to unblock the websites and blogs blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). These websites were blocked by MCMC for reporting about the corruption cases of Najib.

It also joined other groups in calling for the immediate repeal of laws that were often used by authorities to attack human rights advocates and critics of the government such as the Sedition Act 1948, Prevention of Crime Act 1959, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and the recently passed Anti-Fake News Act 2018.

So far, the initial response of the new government has been welcomed by many people.

First, it worked for the release of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who had been under hospital arrest on politically motivated charges of corruption and sodomy.

The PH-led government also formed a Committee on Institutional Reforms to accept proposals on reforming the bureaucracy.

Some news websites were also unblocked on May 17 such as the Sarawak Report and Medium.

The travel ban on political cartoonist and activist Zunar, a fierce critic of Najib, was also lifted on May 14.

The new home minister also affirmed that the government will quickly review controversial laws like the Sedition Act.

But a statement by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the government will amend the anti-Fake News law by providing a clear definition of what constitutes fake news has alarmed civil society organizations because PH has earlier vowed to abolish the law.

The Sarawak Report explained why the entire law must be scrapped:

Journalists and citizens must be allowed speak freely and even be allowed to get it wrong, if they can show their intentions were to inform about something they genuinely had good reason to believe and are willing to correct and amend if found mistaken (as opposed to intended and malicious lies). These are the principles that have now evolved after much pain and argument in most modern democracies and Malaysia would do well to join them.

Around 20 civil society organizations signed a statement expressing disappointment over the “mixed messages from the ruling coalition on the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Act.” They proposed an alternative:

We believe that the more effective solution to any disinformation and misinformation is the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act at the federal level.

They also reminded PH that legislative reforms are not enough to undo what BN has done to Malaysian bureaucracy:

…legislative reform must go hand-in-hand with the restructuring of national institutions to ensure accountability, independence, and respect for human rights. Moreover, the new government must meaningfully engage civil society in a program of reform that is inclusive and participatory.

Human rights groups also criticized the police for arresting a man who “insulted”Prime Minister Mahathir on Facebook. The police said they merely responded to a complaint lodged against the suspect:

Veteran politician Lim Kit Siang asserted that this behavior of the police should change in the “new” Malaysia:

In the New Malaysia, police response must not depend of “who” lodges police reports, but “what” was in the police report, and actions where civil remedy is available should not be criminalised just because the subject-matter involves the Prime Minister or any Minister for that matter.

Mahathir said he also disagreed with the action taken by the police and said the parliament will prioritize the review of vague laws that criminalize the mere criticism of public officials.

The Centre for Independent Journalism welcomed the statement of Mahathir with regard to this incident and appealed for a moratorium on the use of repressive laws that continue to have a chilling effect in society. The group also summarized the challenge posed by free speech advocates to the new government:

It is critical at this juncture for the Pakatan Harapan coalition government to commit to defending a vibrant space for public discussion as the nation is headed towards transformation, to enable greater public participation in this process. This include clearly and unequivocally defending the right to freedom of expression, whether offline or online.

ALERT: Dumaguete broadcaster shot, in critical condition

Motorcycle-riding gunmen shot and seriously wounded a broadcaster and former Dumaguete City chapter chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in the capital of Negros Oriental late Monday morning, April 30, 2018.

Edmund Sestoso, who hosts the daily blocktime “Tug-anan” on dyGB 91.7 FM, was on his way home to Barangay Daro after his program when he was attacked around 10 a.m., a close friend of his who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told the NUJP.

Between four to five bullets struck Sestoso, two in the chest, the others in the stomach and leg. The source said the gunmen also shot the tires of a pedicab whose driver had intended to rush Sestoso to a hospital.

Good Samaritans had to wait for another vehicle to take the wounded radioman to a health facility, where he was expected to undergo emergency surgery.

The motive for the attack on Sestoso has yet to be determined by authorities.

Reference:
Lottie Salarda
Media Safety Officer
NUJP hotline 0917 515 5991

NUJP STATEMENT: No excuse for Sec. Lopez’s treatment of Businessworld reporter

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. #