Filipino reporter threatened with contempt for protecting source

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns threats to find a journalist in contempt if she does not reveal the identity of a confidential source. The IFJ urges the Philippines Government to respect the principle of journalist privilege and ensure confidential sources are protected.Earlier this week, the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability threatened to cite The Standard reporter Christine Herrera in contempt unless she named her source for a story about House of Representatives members who allegedly received bribes to approve the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). One member, Cavite Representative Epilido Barzaga told Herrera that she had one week to name her sources.According to Philippines legislation, journalists and media workers cannot be forced to reveal their sources, unless it is deemed by the interest of the State. Republic Act 53 which is also known as Sotto Law, Section 1 states: “The publisher, editor or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news-report or information appearing in said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter, unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State.”NUJP Secretary General, Rupert Francis Mangilit said: “We do not see how anyone in the supposedly august chamber can invoke national security in trying to force Ms. Herrera to divulge any confidential information. House members would do better to undertake their own housecleaning instead of breaking the law to soothe their bruised egos.”“Bullying and intimidating Herrera is forcing her to violate one of the basic tenets of journalism on the protection of confidentiality of sources. This could set a precedent on House investigations involving journalists and poses a threat to the integrity of the media and journalists” said NUJP.The IFJ said: “It is a universally-accepted ethical obligation that journalists must never reveal the identity of a confidential source. Doing so would have a chilling effect on public interest journalism by undermining the vital trust between journalists and the whistleblowers that seek to expose fraud, corruption, threats to public safety and illegal acts.“Journalists have no choice but to observe this ethical requirement at all times, even under threat of being found in contempt. It would be better for the House Committee to expend its time and energy on investigating the allegations in order to bring corrupt politicians to justice. It is outrageous to make spurious claims about national security while attacking freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. The IFJ urges immediate steps be taken to curb this assault on press freedom, protect journalist privilege and ensure there is a swift and thorough investigation into the bribery allegations,” the IFJ said. 

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

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