The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the actions of the Philippines police in detaining and arresting 17 journalists who were reporting on the takeover by rebel army soldiers of a hotel in Manila on November 29.
The obstruction of journalists in the conduct of their work came as the Philippine National Police stormed the Peninsula Hotel to end a seven-hour stand-off with disgruntled rebel soldiers attempting a coup.
According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an affiliate of the IFJ, journalists were detained along with rebel soldiers. The Government said it had wanted to ensure rebel troops did not slip away among the journalists covering the incident. However, journalists were taken by police to the National Capital Region Police Office in Bicutan, and police confiscated video footage from some journalists.
The IFJ’s Asia-Pacific Director, Jacqueline Park, said the police action against the journalists is a great disappointment in a country where media freedom is meant to be constitutionally guaranteed.
“The detention of journalists in the Philippines can be seen as an attempt by the Government to intimidate media personnel into less aggressive reporting of political events,” Ms Park said. “Some news anchors covering the coup attempt at the hotel are well-known personalities who would be easily identifiable to police and therefore could not have been mistaken for rebel soldiers.”
The IFJ welcomes reports today that the President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, regretted the detention of journalists. However, the IFJ calls on her Government to make a firm commitment that such action will not be repeated in the future.
The NUJP is concerned that some media organizations may have been sufficiently intimidated into softening their coverage of future events.
The IFJ joins the NUJP in condemning the actions of the Philippines police and calling on the Government to uphold the constitutional freedom of the media to ensure that media personnel are not intimidated or detained for doing their jobs.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 120 countries