The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned about the effect a new anti-terrorism law will have on press freedom in the Philippines.
According to local news reports the new law, known as the Human Security Act, was brought into effect on July 15 and includes provisions for the phone tapping and detention of suspects for three days without charge.
Despite government assurances that the law will not be used against political opponents or dissenting voices, IFJ affiliate the Nation Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) says it remains unclear whether journalists will be considered accessories to terrorism if they report the statements of terror suspects.
IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said the new law could easily be used as an excuse to harass journalists.
“If the government cannot assure the international community that the safety of journalists and their right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the Philippines’ constitution, are protected under this new law, it should be repealed,” Park said.
According to reports, three politicians filed a bill in the House of Representatives last week seeking to repeal the law, which activists believe to be unconstitutional.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a vocal supporter of the US-led war on terrorism, insists the law is necessary to combat Al-Qaeda-linked militants who have allegedly blown up passenger buses, telecommunications towers and power lines in the Philippines.
“Terrorism is undoubtedly a threat in the modern world, but it is important to ensure the fight against terror does not provide an excuse for the suppression of free speech,” Park said.
“The people of the Philippines have the right to a free, unbiased press and it is the responsibility of their government to ensure this press is protected.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries