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STATEMENT: Journalists are not the enemy

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte errs in declaring that most journalists are being killed for being corrupt and in implying that only corrupt journalists have been killed in the Philippines. While corruption is a continuing problem in the press and media, it is simply not true that most of the journalists killed in the line of duty were killed because they were corrupt. On the contrary. Most of those killed were in fact exposing corruption and criminal activities in the communities, and for their social and political advocacies. The Pagadian city journalist Edgar Damalerio was killed in 2003 for exposing wrongdoing in the local government; Marlene Esperat was killed in Tacurong city for exposing anomalies in the Department of Agriculture; and Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega was killed for his environmental advocacy in Puerto Princesa. Read more

STATEMENT: On Duterte’s media boycott dare

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines wishes to clarify that it was not the Philippine media which called for a boycott of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s press conferences.
For the record, it was the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers; RSF) that issued the call, one that was, rightly, not heeded by the Philippine media.

Read more

OPEN LETTER: It’s about the culture of impunity in our country!

3 June 2016

Dear President-elect Rodrigo Duterte,

That was quite a mouthful you unleashed on media Thursday night. We do appreciate your reminder that, yes, we journalists are not a uniformly lily-white breed, in fact none of us are, although we would not go so far as to consider ourselves in the same line of work as publicists, for theirs is a totally different field as you yourself pointed out. Read more

Pooled Editorial | Journalists denounce police intimidation and harassment in Kidapawan coverage

AlterMidya, a nationwide network of independent media organizations, denounces police intimidation and attempts to suppress information by preventing journalists from covering the aftermath of the April 1 Kidapawan massacre.

The Cotabato police set up a checkpoint outside the Spottswood United Methodist Center where the protesting farmers retreated after Friday’s violent dispersal. Setting up a checkpoint arbitrarily is already questionable, but preventing journalists from covering an issue of public concern and requiring them to register with the police before entering the church compound is even more reprehensible. The police even denied entry to reporters who have already registered at the checkpoint, according to our colleagues from radio outfit RCPA Davao last April 3.

The media were also prevented from interviewing those victims of the dispersal who were in police custody. Hospital officials reportedly informed the media that there were “orders from the police and municipal government” not to allow reporters to interview the victims. The police also refused to provide information on one of the dead victims, whose body was held by the police for autopsy and whom they claimed tested positive for powder burns using an outdated paraffin test.

On Saturday afternoon, reporters of 783 Radyo ni Juan were harassed by policemen deployed near the Spottswood Methodist Center. Policemen sand “One (Juan) Radio, one month na lang mo.” (One Radio, you’ve only got one month left.)

During the violent dispersal, Kilab journalist Jaja Necosia was also among those hurt when the police stoned the protesters. Necosia was wearing his press ID and taking photos of advancing police when he was hit. Davao Today correspondent Danilda Fusilero was also arrested by the police while she was covering the dispersal. Two police officers handcuffed Fusilero and accused her of being among the protesters. They removed her handcuffs only after she showed the police her press ID and was vouched for by a former North Cotabato official.

Media groups like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have condemned police harassment, intimidation and repression of journalists covering the Kidapawan massacre. But state security forces have been subjecting journalists to more and more violence when covering protests, putting in jeopardy their safety and the media’s critical role in gathering information on matters of public concern.

AlterMidya is therefore calling for an immediate and impartial investigation into both the violence the police unleashed against the farmer-protesters and media, as well as to stop the continuing and worsening harassment and attacks against the demonstrators and our fellow media practitioners. We also urge all journalists and journalist groups, media advocacy organizations, and press freedom advocates to defend the Constitutional right of the press to provide the public the information on political, social and other issues that it urgently needs.

For reference: Prof Luis V. Teodoro, AlterMidya National Chairperson

Statement on the CDO presidential debate coverage

Statement
15 February 2016

nujp-logo

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) shares the concern of our colleagues in Cagayan de Oro over the way limits appear to have been placed on coverage of the first presidential debate on
Feb. 21.
We acknowledge that space limitations inevitably require that admission to the venue of the debate will need to be regulated.

However, we also believe the organizers and hosts of the event should provide a large enough venue where the largest number possible of journalists, both community and Manila-based, may watch and cover the debate through monitors.

We agree with the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) that the process of choosing who next to lead the country is so important that every opportunity available to journalists to be able to inform the broadest segment of the public must be optimized.

We hope the organizers of the Cagayan de Oro presidential debate and the local media community would be open to more dialogues to iron out the process of selection and accreditation of journalists who will cover the debate.

We do hope it is not too late for the organizers of the Cagayan de Oro presidential debate to address these issues even as we urge the organizers of the subsequent debates to be held in the Visayas and Luzon to ensure early on that such problems are avoided.

Reference:
Ryan Rosauro
Chairperson, NUJP

The State of Press Freedom 2015

The State of Press Freedom 2015:
More journalists killed and threatened, many more laid off. And still no FOI…

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has always said that we do not see any pattern that would lead us to conclude that the continued murder of journalists in the country is part of any official government program, unlike, as many experts have noted, the extrajudicial killings of activists and other dissenters.

We have been very clear about this since we began documenting media killings in our country.

However, recent events may make us reconsider this view.

We have had military officers, angered that their lies about the atrocities against the lumad were being exposed, mounting a brazen, if amateurish, smear campaign against our former chairperson, Inday Espina-Varona, baselessly accusing her of being in cahoots with communist rebels. While laughable, we all know the deadly implications such Red-tagging can have for its targets.

And then we have the Magahat militia, the “monster” created by the military as Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel so aptly described them, threatening to ambush journalists covering the 47th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines because doing so supposedly equates to being rebel sympathizers.

Worse, the man who issued the threat, Bobby Tejero, has been charged in court and has been ordered arrested by the courts for the murders of a tribal school administrator and two Manobo leaders and yet, going by the accounts of Surigao del Sur officials and residents, continues to sow terror in the province and – Surprise! – continue to operate with the military.

That Tejero has failed to carry out his threat does not diminish the fact that this wanted murderer can openly issue such threats without any fear of being hauled to court because he apparently enjoys the protection of those whose task is to bring him before the bar of justice.

Then, the day after Christmas, an ABS-CBN news team, led by the chairman of our Iligan chapter, was tailed and fired on by motorcycle-riding gunmen in broad daylight in the heart of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Thankfully, none of them was hurt.

While the Marawi ambush may, on the surface, have nothing to do with the military and Magahat threats, as we have said time and again, government inaction on – or more aptly, apathy towards – the murders of journalists and President Benigno Aquino III’s well-documented penchant for blaming media for most everything wrong with his administration can only serve to embolden those who wish to silence us. Indeed, a broad daylight attack on a clearly marked news vehicle in the heart of a major city is as bold as it gets.

And of course, we do not expect government to admit any link to these openly announced threats from the military and the Magahat, just as the military insists it has nothing to do with the Magahat and other militias wreaking havoc among lumad communities or, for that matter to the unabated murders of activists and farmers and religious and the countless others whose blood soaks our benighted land. But its silence in the face of this brazen flouting of our laws and democratic processes damns it as surely as if it had given its blessings.

As he winds down his term, Aquino has been big lately on legacy. Yes, we will indeed long remember his presidency as one of the bloodiest for Philippine journalism and for its attempts to undermine freedom of the press and of free expression.

To date, of the 170 media killings since 1986, 30 happened during the Aquino Administration. This year alone, we lost six colleagues, namely, Maurito Lim (Bohol); Melinda “Mei” Magsino (Batangas); Gregorio Ybanez (Davao del Norte); Teodoro Escanilla (Sorsogon); Cosme Maestrado (Misamis Oriental) and Jose Bernardo (Quezon City).

Let us not forget the single deadliest attack on press freedom in the world when 58 innocent people, including 32 journalists and media workers were massacred in Ampatuan, Maguindanao in November 23, 2009 whose resolution is light years away – with a principal accused out on bail and on the verge of being elected mayor to boot – no thanks to the government’s broken promises of a speedier judgement.

All these and more are grim reminders of the culture of impunity that reigns in the Philippines, where masterminds in the killings of journalists and other civilians go unpunished, suspects go scot-free or run for office, and murderers issue open threats to members of the 4th Estate.

The Philippines may have been dropped from international media group’s lists of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world but this does not diminish the fact and reality that journalists in this country are indeed experiencing increased threats from state and non-state actors.

Not helping in any bit here are the media owners, who have imposed record high mass layoffs and job cuts this year, that have endangered local journalists and media workers and affected communities nationwide that are already suffering from an FOI-less future, no thanks to the failed promises of a leader and his legislative minions to pass it for the last six years.

It is thus with trepidation that we welcome the new year, especially as the election season heats up.

We then urge all Filipino journalists to remain vigilant against threats and attacks while doing their jobs…

Even as we also challenge journalists to unite and defend press freedom at all cost.

The NUJP National Directorate

Ampatuan Massacre: Still no justice after six years

On the sixth year of the Ampatuan Massacre journalists marched from the National Press Club (NPC) to Mendiola to demand justice for the 58 victims, including 34 journalists.

NPC members were joined by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-National Capital Region Chapter.

The Ampatuan Massacre is said to be the worst such incident in human history that killed the most number of journalists in a single day. It is also considered the worst election-related crime in Philippine history.

As a presidential candidate in 2010, Benigno Aquino promised justice to the victims. Very near the end of his six year term, the Aquino presidency still has to deliver on its promise.

NPC Pres. Joel Egco and BAYAN-NCR Sec-Gen. Mong Palatino spoke at the rally before an effigy of “Pnoy-chio” was burned.

ALTERMIDYA EDITORIAL: Ampatuan Massacre, a grim symbol of reigning impunity under Aquino

23 November 2015

It is Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s last year in office but justice remains elusive for the victims of Ampatuan massacre. No perpetrator has been convicted, the victims still cry for justice. Aquino’s vow six years ago to immediately resolve the gruesome massacre has become a hollow promise: the culture of impunity and sheer lack of accountability continues to reign under his administration.

The Ampatuan massacre, considered as the single most violent incident in the history of Philippine media, claimed the lives of 58 people including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009. The case against the alleged masterminds, the Ampatuan warlord clan, moves painfully slow.

The court case, after six years, is still at its preliminary stage at gathering evidence and bail proceedings. One of the primary suspects, Ampatuan patriarch, former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. died early this year of liver cancer, extinguishing his criminal liability in the massacre case. Another suspect, Sajid Ampatuan, was released and is running for mayor of Shariff Aguak, under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay, in the 2016 polls. Majority of the suspects including members of the clan’s private army and several police officers are still at large or were granted bail.

The gross failure and lack of interest of the Aquino government to swiftly bring justice to the victims and end impunity continues to cultivate a dangerous atmosphere for Filipinos, media worker or not. After the Ampatuan massacre, the killing of journalists persists under Aquino’s term. The recent killing of DWIZ correspondent Jose Bernardo brings the total number of murdered journalists to 30 under the Aquino administration and 150 since 1986.

Extrajudicial killings of political activists, human rights defenders, indigenous people, and community leaders continue. Threats and harassment of state critics are intensifying. All these are a bleak reminder of the escalating impunity in the country and the ineptness of government that breeds it.

Six years of waiting has been enough. The Ampatuan massacre is a pivotal issue in the people’s struggle against growing impunity. Another day of delay in bringing justice to the 58 victims is another license for greater human rights violations and unaccountability in the country. We could no longer allow this government, or the next, to continue this injustice. We hold the Aquino government accountable for this injustice as well as its own crimes against the people.  We would persist in demanding for justice for the victims and their families of the Ampatuan massacre, and all cases of extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

Accountability for these murders, for political repression, the absence of justice, and the persisting culture of impunity are all the responsibility of the President and the State. #

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Altermidya-People’s Alternative Media Network is a national network of independent and progressive media outfits, institutions and individuals. Kodao Productions is a founding member of Altermidya.

An attack on the rights of journalists and press freedom – AlterMidya

AlterMidya statement on libel vs Bicol Today correspondent.

 

The obsolete, repressive law on libel is one of the instruments of oppressors to attack the freedom of speech and expression and press freedom. Since 1986, more than 180 journalists have been killed and more still suffer from oppressive libel charges.

Just recently in the Bicol region, libel again was used as a tool of corrupt officials to kill the voice of the masses craving for genuine truth and accountability.

On April 15, Wednesday, Bicol Today’s correspondent Elmer James Bandol was arrested, for the eighth time for libel charges since 1979, in his residence in Daraga, Albay based on a warrant of arrest filed four years ago without considering the motion filed by his legal counsel.

The case filed by former General Manager Eduardo Margallo of Masbate Electrical Cooperative (Maselco) against Bandol was based on his article “314 million pesos losses of Masbate power coop traced to mismanagement – NEA” published by BicolToday.com on December 14, 2011.

In Bandol’s 36 years as a veteran local journalist, he served the masses through Bicol Today for more than four years through exposing corruption by local government officials. He had 11 charges of libel but were eventually dismissed because his stories really mirror the truth.

AlterMidya as the People’s Alternative Media Network supports its active member Bicol Today in fighting for the rights of Bandol, as well as for press freedom and for the decriminalization of libel in the country.

A journalist must not be jailed for exposing the truth. He or she should not suffer from being deprived of his right to perform his duty to the Filipino people.

Bandol was harassed and denied due process. The Masbate prosecutor’s office has recommended the filing of libel charges against him even without preliminary investigation. Bandol filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied by the prosecution. Bandol is currently under the custody of the Masbate City PNP with a bail amounting to P10,000.

AlterMidya stands by Bicol Today’s position that online libel, which was filed against Bandol, as defined by the Cyber Crime Law, still did not exist as the libel complaint was filed
during the period when the Cyber Crime bill was still under deliberation by Congress.

By law, online articles could not be defined legally as a ”publication” since the existing libel law then was limited to printed publication and broadcast media. Bandol’s case also highlights the need to intensify the fight against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and for the decriminalization of libel.

We are calling on all media groups to express their support for Bandol and the fight for press freedom. Together with the Filipino people, journalists should stand for their rights and demand an end to impunity in killings and attacks against press freedom and the right to free expression.
(Photos from BicolToday.com)

Altermidya is a non-stock, non-profit network of independent, progressive, and alternative media outfits, institutions and individuals.