Invasion of the Sanctity of the Press

PRESS STATEMENT
March 4, 2006

The Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) is alarmed by the government’s continuing harassment of media organizations and journalists despite the lifting of the state of national emergency last March 3.

The recent attempts of the police to obtain warrants to search the premises of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the closure of the award-winning radio program “Ngayon na Bayan” aired over dzRJ, and the National Bureau of Investigation’s request to   television station ABC 5 to turn over a video tape are chilling manifestations of the state’s abridgement of the fundamental right of the press to freely report.

On March 13, sound engineer Jonathan Tiongco, accompanied by three policemen, asked Quezon City Judge Alan Balot to issue a warrant to search the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s (PCIJ) office, apparently in connection with an inciting to sedition charge Tiongco filed against the media organization. 

Tiongco was presented last year to the media by former Environment Secretary and now Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor, apparently to discredit the “Hello Garci” tapes—the recordings that suggested Ms. Arroyo cheated in the 2004 presidential elections.

Judge Balot denied Tiongco’s request, the second time he did so.  PCIJ said Tiongco’s earlier application on March 10 was turned down by anotherQuezon Cityjudge.

The radio program “Ngayon na Bayan” aired over DZRJ and recipient of the KBP 2002 Golden Dove Award for best public affairs program was taken off the air hours after President Arroyo issued Proclamation 1017.  The police presented last March 13 a hooded witness who claimed that Kodao Productions Inc., producers of the radio program, was a propaganda arm of the Communist Party of thePhilippines.

Reports received by the CCJD also showed that ABC 5 Television is being pressed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to submit video footage purportedly showing an Army Scout Rangers general announcing his withdrawal of support from the Arroyo government.

The CCJD condemns in the strongest terms these brazen attempts to harass, intimidate and suppress the media.  It joins voices calling for the Arroyo administration to uphold the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and to observe the guarantees provided by international human rights instruments.

The continuing harassment of the media has very serious implications for the citizens’ right to know and for the survival of democracy itself.

The Center for Community Journalism and Development is a non-government, non-profit media organization working with journalists, citizens and institutions for social change.  It is also theSoutheast Asiaoffice of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) based inBrussels,Belgium.

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