Philippines: Department of Health blocks access for journalists

The Department of Health’s Bureau of Quarantine has released a directive which prohibits overseas Filipino workers who are quarantined from granting interviews to the media. The International Federation of Journalists joins it affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to seek clarification on this directive and call on authorities to uphold the people’s rights to information.

Quarantine rules. Credit: NUJP

Item 6 of the directive reads: “Media interviews and posting on Social Media is [sic] not allowed. Electronic gadgets and cellphones of those who violate this will be confiscated and will be returned after the quarantine period.” It was purportedly given to Filipino workers (OFWs)  returning from abroad. Copies of the directive have been posted online by concerned government officials and citizens.

If the information is true, this directive violates the OFW’s freedom of expression as well as access by journalists to news sources and constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

Around 36,000 overseas Filipino workers have returned to the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Delays and inefficiencies in testing as well as processing documents have forced some 24,000 OFWs who were tested negative to remain in quarantine over the mandatory 14-days.

NUJP said: “Government must again be reminded that, as it leads our country’s response against the pandemic, it should still uphold the people’s rights and freedoms.”

The IFJ said:“Access for journalists to interview sources, including overseas Filipino workers is essential during the pandemic. Only by allowing the press to do their jobs freely and safely, the media will be able to distribute information and keep public safe and informed. IFJ calls the authorities to respect journalists’ rights.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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