IFJ Concerned Over Threats to Press Freedom: Radio Closures and Press Censorship in the Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned about the latest wave of press censorship to hit the Philippines.

Valencia City Mayor Jose Galario Jr has revoked the business license of yet another radio station and it has come to light that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration has been attempting to control government press conferences by vetting certain journalists, news organisations and questions.

The timing of this attempt at media control is circumspect, considering the hive of controversy that surrounds the Arroyo administration amidst calls for impeachment and allegations of corruption.

Filipino journalists have reported being excluded from government press briefings that have increasingly become exclusive events for the palace press corps and government loyalists. It has also been reported that questions have been screened and vetted before the briefings.

At a recent Malacanang press briefing, members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of The Philippines (FOCAP) were reportedly denied entry and journalists were asked to fill in cue cards with the questions they wished to ask. Only 10 reporters were permitted to ask questions.

"This lack of transparency and obvious vetting of difficult questions is unacceptable," said Christopher Warren, president of the IFJ, which represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries.

"The Filipino government is excluding journalists and news organisations that they deem critical of the Arroyo administration. They are attempting to avoid answering the hard questions and we have to ask why?" he said.

"This is a blatant manipulation of the media and it must stop."

The IFJ is also extremely concerned about the actions of Valencia City Mayor Jose Galario Jr who has closed Radio Mindanao Network's DXVR station and has threatened to press charges against acting manager of DXVR, Jaos Dignos.

This isn't the first time Galario has revoked the business license of a radio station for so-called "unfriendly broadcasts". In 2003 he closed DXMV-Radyo Ukay following critical broadcasts. After an on-air confrontation on July 5, Galario also filed multiple libel charges against RMN commentator Zaldy Ocon.

The IFJ condemns this disregard for press freedom and calls on Mayor Galario to re-open DXVR immediately, drop the charges against Zaldy Ocon and abandon the intention to press charges against Jaos Dignos.

"This abuse of power is reprehensible. Galario seems to have forgotten that the Philippines is a democracy, however much he would prefer otherwise," said the IFJ.

"This is, a curtailment of press freedom and Galario's actions are in direct opposition to the countries' constitution."

For further information contact IFJ President Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries