The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliates in the Philippines and Hong Kong in warning that any charges laid against media personnel in the Philippines in regard to reporting on a siege in Manila in August would set a dangerous precedent for free reporting of sensitive situations.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said on September 20 that investigators had recommended charges be laid against at least 12 people, including two journalists, over an incident in which a tour bus was hijacked in Manila on August 23. Eight Hong Kong nationals were killed in the day-long siege. Seven people were injured.
The IFJ supports the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in cautioning the Philippines’ Government against attributing criminal liability to journalists in relation to the incident.
“The Philippine media have, by and large, acknowledged lapses and have begun discussing ways to individually and collectively ensure that more care and sensitivity are taken in future coverage of similar delicate situations,” the NUJP said in a statement.
The IFJ notes that several media organisations in the Philippines have already put in place concrete measures to revise and strengthen guidelines on coverage of similar incidents. The IFJ firmly believes that journalists and media workers must devise and implement independent mechanisms for dealing with professional ethical issues and complaints against the media.
“Criminal charges against media personnel would set a dangerous precedent for the Philippines that would potentially cause journalists and media organisations to censor coverage of other sensitive situations for fear of criminal liability,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“There is a risk here that journalists and media organisations may be made scapegoats.”
The Hong Kong Journalists’ association (HKJA) has also made clear it supports the spirit of the NUJP position on this issue. It stresses that professional ethical issues must be handled by media professionals when no laws have been violated.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific