Detained Journalists In The Philippines Call For Government Protection

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports journalists and media technicians in the Philippines in filing a petition calling for government protection after they were arrested and detained on November 29, 2007, while covering the takeover of the Peninsula Hotel in Manila by rebel army soldiers.

The Philippines National Police (PNP) stormed the hotel, ending a seven-hour coup attempt by disgruntled rebel soldiers who trapped about 100 hotel guests and staff inside. Eleven journalists were detained along with rebel soldiers.

The Government had said that the arrests were to ensure rebel troops did not slip away among the journalists gathered to report the incident. However, police had confiscated the video footage of some journalists, and some journalists were detained and taken to the National Capital Region Police Office in Bicutan, Taguig City.

Led by senior correspondent Ces Oreña Drilon, 11 employees of ABS-CBN, the largest television network in the Philippines, who were among those arrested, filed a petition for a “writ of amparo and prohibition”. A “writ of amparo” is a court order to protect the constitutional rights of a person. Journalists say it provides a remedy to any person whose liberty and security is violated by an unlawful act.

On the basis of this writ, the petition seeks government protection from “threats of future arrests without warrant and acts of harassment against petitioners and other journalists, in the course or in the consequence of the performance of their work, such as in the coverage of breaking news events similar to the Manila Peninsula stand-off”.

Mr Drilon also appealed on behalf of the journalists to the Supreme Court to declare their arrests illegal and prevent further government threats against journalists.

The head of ABS-CBN news and current affairs, Maria Ressa, said that ABS-CBN, which had the most employees arrested during the incident, “can’t stand by and watch a kind of creeping censorship test and weaken our democracy”.

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park expressed the IFJ’s support for the ABS-CBN campaign.

“We support employees from ABS-CBN in standing up for their democratic rights to work free from harassment and intimidation, especially from government officials and authorities,” Ms Park said. “The actions of the network show a strong step forward in campaigning for media rights, and we encourage other journalists and organisations in the Philippines and the international community to support them in solidarity.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries