Rambo Talabong, a journalist for Rappler was removed from the “NCRPO Press Corps” Viber group channel on May 13 by the NCRPO public information officer (PIO) after covering a story on Debold Sina’s alleged breach of the government’s physical distancing rules. Rambo’s article reported on Debold’s failure to comply with the government’s physical distancing rules at his birthday celebrations held at police headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig on May 8. Pictures posted on the NCRPO’s official Facebook page of the gathering were removed on May 13.
In a statement, Rappler said, “This act on the part of the NCRPO PIO constitutes prior restraint on the freedom of the press and the right to free speech. By removing Mr. Talabong from the channel where a government office communicates and coordinates with journalists, the NCRPO is impairing Rappler’s ability to serve the public’s constitutionally-guaranteed right to know.”
The IFJ said: “Social media has become instrumental for maintaining communication and the free flow of information between journalists and authorities. The IFJ urge authorities to restore Rambo’s access immediately.”