Accredition of journalists violates press freedom, says Philippine union

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in strongly criticizing the provision in House Bill 362, which seeks to amend Republic Act (R.A.) 53 ‘Sotto Law’ to narrow the parameters of journalism by forcing the issue of accreditation. The IFJ calls for the Bill to be amended to remove any mentions of accreditation for  journalists and media workers.

In 2014, Representative Raul del Mar authored House Bill 362 titled, an amendment to R.A. No. 53, aiming to extempt journalists from revealing sources of information obtained in confidence. The amendment, aims to extend ‘Sotto Law’ whereby only forcing journalists to divulge confidential sources when “the court or the House of Representatives or the Senate or any of its committees finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State.”

However, Section 2 of the bill states: “For purposes of this act, a duly accredited journalist or practitioner of any legitimate print, broadcast, internet or wire service organization, station or network, is one who is accredited with any reputable association of media persons… and/or one who is a regular employee of a legitimate print, broadcast, internet or wire service organization, station or network, provided, that any journalist engaged by any legitimate media company shall be deemed to be an accredited journalist.”

Thus, the provision opens the door to the state’s possible intervention in defining ‘accredited’ journalists. However, the counterpart bill, Senate Bill No. 165 introduced by Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., makes no mention of any accreditation.

NUJP Chairperson, Rowena Paraan said: “While the NUJP certainly vets and accredits its members, this is an internal process and has no bearing whatsoever on the fitness of non-members to practice journalism. It has always been the NUJP’s credo that journalism, while a profession for those who derive income from its practice, is a logical extension of the people’s basic rights to information and freedom of expression and thus, should be practiced by anyone and everyone without needing to undergo any “accreditation” process.”

“This, too, is the reason why media observe self-regulation and are not submitted to any regulatory process. Any state regulation of journalism can only lead to one sad result – the death of press freedom and the independent Philippine media” said NUJP.

IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: “Defining a journalist as those who work for ‘legitimate’ media organisations or accredited by reputable organisations places narrow limitations on professional journalists. Placing such restrictions on journalism will ultimate limit the number of voices and opinions therefore weakening press freedom and the right to information in the Philippines.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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