Secure, not restrict: NUJP on military barring media to leave Lanao del Sur capitol

Secure, not restrict: NUJP on military barring media to leave Lanao del Sur capitol
June 16, 2017

It has come to my attention that journalists covering the ongoing war in Marawi City were barred from leaving the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol compound as part of measures adopted by the Philippine Army to ensure the safety of everybody in the area.

The tightened security measures were a result of an incident Thursday when Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reporter Adam Harvey was injured in the neck by a sniper bullet while covering an evacuation center near the provincial capitol premises.

We welcome the reminders issued by government authorities for journalists to always be mindful of their safety while covering the crisis which was wore on for more than three weeks now. A similar reminder was issued by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) early today.

But I am surprised to learn that the military command with direct responsibility over Marawi City has used, among others, the NUJP statement as reason for barring journalists to venture into areas where they think a story is waiting to be told. Such extreme consequence was never contemplated in the statement issued by the NUJP.

Neither should the statement be construed as seeking escorts among government security forces in the course of news gathering in the war zone. The Army can help protect journalists by sharing information about the obtaining security situation in a particular section of the city at a given time. Such information will be crucial in shaping decisions that each journalist will take.

The ongoing siege by Islamic State-inspired militants have grave implications not just for Marawi and Lanao del Sur but for the entire country. It is therefore important that independent eyes be allowed to view its day-to-day unfolding. Every single passing moment lost in terms of opportunity to chronicle the ongoing war deprives the public of firsthand accounts of its shaping dynamics, which is changing each passing day.

I am confident that the journalists who committed to do this difficult task have enough professional preparations and experience to face the challenges, including personal security.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Hotline: 09175155991