Military Intimidation of Journalists Continues in the Philippines

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) is dismayed by reports of continuing intimidation of the Philippines

media by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the newly installed

Aquino administration.

 

Manila Standard Today reporter Florante “Bong” Solmerin was reportedly manhandled by officials at the

country’s main military installation, Camp

Aguinaldo, in Quezon City on July 30, according to the National Union of

Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP),

an IFJ affiliate.

 

Solmerin,

who is also president of the Philippines Defence Press Corps (DPC), acknowledges

he had forgotten to display his official identification when entering the facility,

and that he exchanged “heated words” with officers.

 

He claims

they continued to intimidate and question him despite his attempts to explain

his presence and show his credentials when questioned. He sought to leave to

avoid further confrontation, but two officers continued to yell at him and refused

to return his identification, .

 

Solmerin was

then pursued by the officers, who tried to punch him, before taking him to the office

of deputy camp commander Navy Captain Miguel Fio Sequisame.

 

Sequisame

threatened to ban Solmerin from Camp Aguinaldo and referred to the media killings that

plague the Philippines.

He was reported to have said, “You know sometimes we soldiers no longer wonder

why these things happen to you in the media.”

 

Solmerin was

also questioned about who had authored a report in the press which detailed an alleged

illegal “beer joint” operating within the military complex.

 

“The IFJ

held optimism that a new political administration in the Philippines would bring an end to

the mistreatment of journalists at the hands of the military,” IFJ

Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

“It is the responsibility of

President Benigno Aquino to do everything within his power to end the

disgraceful press freedom record of his country, which includes how military

personnel interact with the media.”

 

The IFJ also reminds President Aquino of the recommendation in its Action

Plan for the Philippines for a training program to address the way

military, police, elected officials and government employees interact with the

media.

 

Solmerin’s case is the first major reported incident of intimidation of

a journalist by the military since Aquino took office on June 30. However, defence

reporters Eden Magcarlas, from Net 25, GMA 7 cameraman Jun Fronda and Hataw columnist Joel Egco said they experienced

similar behaviour on August 3, despite displaying their official press cards.

 

Solmerin has lodged a complaint with AFP Chief of

Staff General Ricardo David, who recently announced plans to strengthen the

armed forces’ Human Rights Offices, and is reported to be working with human

rights groups to improve the AFP’s human rights record.

 

Dateline Philippines

reports that DPC officials will meet military representatives today to open

dialogue over the series of incidents.

 

The IFJ reiterates the demands of the NUJP

calling for a full investigation and appropriate sanctions against the officers

involved in the most recent incidents.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

Find the

IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific