[STATEMENT] NUJP on threats vs photojournalist Jes Aznar

[STATEMENT] NUJP on threats vs photojournalist Jes Aznar
June 20, 2017

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines expresses deep concern at the threats continuously being received by photojournalist Jes Aznar, whose work appears, among others, in the New York Times and is also carried by international photo agencies, over a mistaken accusation by the blog site Thinking Pinoy published by one RJ Nieto.

Nieto accused Aznar of posting real time photos of soldiers battling the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City, thereby possibly giving away their positions and endangering their lives.

Aznar has repeatedly clarified he posted the photo in question when they were already out of the area, thus he could not have endangered the soldiers at that time. He also said that he only had good intentions in posting the photo on his Facebook social media account, such as showing the public how active the government troops were in quelling the Maute and Abu Sayyaf.

We condemn Thinking Pinoy and Mr. Nieto for endangering a journalist, more so on unfounded reasons. We likewise condemn those who threaten our colleague who was simply doing his job.

We commend the brave journalists who inform the Filipino people and the world about the unfolding events in Marawi City and elsewhere.

We urge authorities to protect Mr. Aznar from these threats and to assist him should he seek redress and accountability for those who seek to put him in danger.

Dabet Panelo
Secretary General

For inquiries and other concerns, please call NUJP Hotline 09175155991

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

Gerry Ortega: 6 years, no justice

Gerry Ortega: 6 years, no justice

Today, January 24, we commemorate the sixth anniversary of the murder of Dr. Gerardo Ortega, journalist, environmentalist and good governance advocate.

While we take comfort in the fact that the alleged masterminds behind his killing are finally being tried, we also take note that freedom of the press and of expression remain under threat and, in fact, appear to be in even more danger than ever.

Physical threats, including the ultimate censorship – murder – continue to confront journalists under the present administration, with one colleague, Catanduanes publisher Larry Que, killed and at least one other surviving an assassination try, Pangasinan’s Virgilio Maganes.

But other, more insidious, dangers to press freedom and the right to free expression exist as well and, unfortunately, some of these are posed by government itself, with the highest official of the land, his spokesmen and even those supposedly responsible for the dispensation of justice have actively tried to undermine the media by characterizing accurate reportage as supposed attempts to discredit them.

While this is nothing new – past presidents have also taken media to task for critical reporting – the current administration has taken this to new lows, insisting that “creative imagination” should take precedence over accurate reporting.

As we remember Gerry Ortega, we vow to honor his memory and those of all our colleagues who have fallen, by continuing the pursuit for justice and standing firm by the tenets of the profession of truth and to resist all attempts to subvert it with the alternative facts peddled by demagogues and populists.

Ryan Rosauro, chairperson
NUJP Hotline 09175155991

NUJP decries harassment vs Digos broadcaster, radio station

NUJP decries harassment vs Digos broadcaster, radio station

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) decries the harassment of Digos City broadcaster Ednar “Jun” Panerio and the radio station where he works as news anchor and commentator by a Davao del Sur provincial official .

Around 3pm on Friday, Jan. 20, Davao del Sur deputy governor Arvin Malaza sought out Panerio at the station of 105.3 Radyo Kastigo in Barangay Cogon, Digos City, accompanied by Flor Sardido, a lawyer of Governor Douglas Cagas, and several police officers. Radyo Kastigo, which started operations two weeks ago, carried public affairs programs critical of Cagas’ governance.

According to Radyo Kastigo technician Weng Torrecampo, Malaza’s group insisted on entering the station but backed off on learning that he had informed radio owner Rick Torrecampo of their presence. Panerio was no longer in the radio station when Malaza and company came. Weng Torrecampo said Malaza and Sardido mentioned that their search for Panerio was related to allegations in a police blotter that he committed libel during his radio commentaries.

Upon learning of the incident, Panerio said he went to the Digos police station on Saturday and “offered my self to be arrested,” a gesture laughed off by the police officers present. There, the police officials recounted to Panerio how they argued with Malaza and Sardido about the basis for having him arrested; the police maintaining there was none and Malaza insisting they just have to arrest him. Panerio said he was shown the police blotter containing the libel allegations that proved short on details like the specific comments deemed injurious to a particular person and when these were uttered in his radio program.

Panerio added that the Digos police–tired of the constant badgering–eventually dispatched several officers to accompany Malaza to Radyo Kastigo.

If he had good faith, Malaza–himself a broadcaster using the pseudonym Jun Blanco–should have known better: a police blotter cannot be used as basis to have Panerio, or anyone for that matter, arrested for libel. That should be ordered by a competent court just like his arrest last year for six counts of libel. Malaza’s badgering of the police to do an illegal act– the warrantless arrest of Panerio–can only be driven by ill-will.

When Malaza did not get what he wanted, he tried another trick on Radyo Kastigo. On Monday afternoon, he convinced a National Telecommunications Communication (NTC) personnel to conduct an inspection of the radio station, supposedly to probe some complaints.

Malaza seems hell-bent on moving heaven and earth to defend the public reputation of his principal, Governor Cagas he would muzzle a fellow broadcaster and even a radio station.

But we also note that his attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the operation of Radyo Kastigo could have business underpinnings. Malaza is Chief Executive Officer of Muews FM, for which Panerio worked for some eight months in 2016, handling roles in news production and administrative support, as well as being program anchor, compensated only by commissions from advertisements placed on his daily two-hour broadcast slot.

Ryan Rosauro, chairperson
NUJP Hotline 09175155991

Nothing justifies the murder of journalists!

NUJP Statement
31 May 2016
Nothing justifies the murder of journalists!

It is appalling that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte should justify the murder of journalists in the country by playing the corruption card.

In his press conference in Davao City Tuesday, Mr. Duterte issued the broad assertion that “most journalists killed are corrupt.”

“Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t mean you’re exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch,” he said.

“Freedom of expression won’t save you,” he added. “The Constitution cannot help you kapag binaboy mo ang isang tao.”

Mr. Duterte’s crass pronouncement not only sullies the names and memories of all 176 of our colleagues who have been murdered since 1986, he has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media, both individual journalists and the institution, on the mere perception of corruption.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) does not gloss over the fact that corruption is among the most pressing problems faced by the media. Nor do we deny that this could be the reason for a number of media killings.

However, it is one thing to recognize a possible reason for murder; it is a totally different thing to present this as a justification for taking life.

Admittedly, this would not be the first time the perceived corruption of the media has been bandied as a justification for the murder of journalists. And Mr. Duterte tries to explain his thesis by claiming assassination is retribution from private individuals unjustly pilloried by errant journalists.

He could not be further from the truth.

While there may be instances where private individuals may have sought revenge against journalists for soiling their reputations, the data shows that, of the handful of media killings that have actually made it to the courts, the accused are invariably from government – elected officials, government executives or members of the security services – and invariably accused of corruption.

Let us just cite a few of the more prominent cases – the murders of Edgar Damalerio of Pagadian City, Marlene Esperat of Tacurong City, and Gerry Ortega of Puerto Princesa City, and, of course, the most heinous of all, the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, of which 32 of the 58 victims were media workers, making it not only the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history but the single deadliest attack on journalists ever.

We wonder if the President-elect is willing to face the orphans and widows of the victims of these killings and tell them, “They were killed because they were corrupt.”

As we have pointed out before, leadership, or even its mere semblance, carries weight and what leaders say, right or wrong, seriously or in jest, will resound with their followers. Thus, even if this be jest, and we see no reason to believe this was the case, your words may well be interpreted as marching order by those with an axe to grind against a critical press.

In all honesty, Mr. President-elect, we were hopeful, following pronouncements by your spokesperson that you would push the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) law and would constitute a special task force to investigate media killings, that we were on the cusp of a new era when freedom of the press and of expression would be respected, defended and promoted beyond lip service.

Alas, it seems we were wrong.

Or are we to be again treated to the excuse that it was all a joke and we need to be more discerning about your pronouncements?

Murder is no joke. Neither is press freedom.

Be that as it may, the independent Philippine media will not be cowed from fulfilling its duty to act as the people’s watchdog.

Ryan Rosuaro
NUJP Chair