Philippines: Police assault journalist during Traslacion 2020

Jun Veneracion, a journalist for GMA Network, was covering the Traslacion 2020 procession in Manila on January 9, when Brigadier General Nolasco Bathan assaulted him and grabbed his phone. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemn the incident and urge the Philippine National Police to investigate and impose the appropriate sanctions against Bathan.

Devotees move a man on a stretcher to a safe area during the 2020 Traslacion procession Credit: TED ALJIBE / AFP

Veneracion was covering the Traslacion, an annual religious procession, when he witnessed a group of police officers attacking a devotee and started to record the incident on his phone. While recording the incident, his phone was suddenly taken by a police officer who he later confirmed to be General Bathan. When confronted, Veneracion said the general threatened to take away his handheld radio as well. Bathan eventually returned back the journalist’s phone, claiming that he did not know he was a reporter.

However, Veneracion checked his phone's gallery and found the video was deleted. When he asked Bathan why it had been erased, the general denied the accusation. Fortunately, when the journalist checked again, he found the file in the recently deleted folder of his phone.

The day after the incident, Bathan apologised to Veneracion in a press conference at Kamuning Police Station 10. He said that the incident was a misunderstanding and that he believed the reporter posed a threat. Bathan also sent a private apology to Veneracion through a text message.

In a statement, GMA said they hope the incident will not happen again.

NUJP said, “What Bathan did was not just an assault on press freedom.” NUJP went on to say “if unpunished, it can only add to the worsening impunity that has marked the general breakdown of the rule of law in this country. We demand that the Philippine National Police mount a swift and impartial investigation into this incident and impose the appropriate sanctions against Brig. Gen. Bathan.”  

IFJ said: "We urge the authorities to conduct an independent investigation into Brig. Gen. Bathan. The declining press freedom and culture of impunity continues to obstruct journalists from carrying out their work. We request the police to review their conduct to ensure journalists are safe in the field covering stories and that authorities protect them, not harass them”.