MEDIA GROUP CONDEMNS HARASSMENT OF GMA-7 REPORTER
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) condemns in the strongest terms President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's outburst against GMA-7 reporter Tina Panganiban-Perez following the latter's interview with Sen. Gregorio Honasan.
Mrs. Arroyo's beef apparently stems from her interpretation of the interview as abetting rebellion. The President brushed off Panganiban-Perez's explanation, of the interview having taken place after the lifting of the state of rebellion, insisting her "assets" claimed it had taken place while the presidential edict was in place. According to reporters, the Chief Executive's display of pique started with a complaint about media not interviewing a military commander who reportedly had something to add to the Palace's full-court media press against the opposition senator.
The President's apologists, including former journalist Rigoberto Tiglao, have tried to control the damage. However, Tiglao, Press Secretary Milton Alingod and his predecessor, Hernani Braganza, have only succeeded in further highlighting this administration's dangerous stance on the issue of press freedom.
Braganza and deputy spokesperson Ricardo Saludo, for example, issued admonitions against doing interviews with people suspected of aiding rebels, in this case the Magdalo mutineers. In lashing out against Panganiban-Perez, the President also implied that reporters had snubbed Southern Luzon Army commander Alfonso Dagudag, who was around on the day of the dressing down, but had been too eager to interview Honasan.
Tiglao and colleagues insist media has nothing tofear, that journalists only crop up in intelligence reports due to surveillance on the parties being interviewed. They miss the point.
Whether or not Panganiban-Perez's interview occurred after or during the state of rebellion is not the issue. The Chief Executive of a purportedly democratic republic had no business lambasting a journalist who was doing her job.
Journalists are duty bound to print/air views of all parties in a controversy. One does not build a strong republic by mposing prior restraint on media. The only thing that censorship advances is tyranny.
If media is to play its part in building a strong republic or democracy, it is through critical reportage and showing a real picture of the many disparate and conflicting interests in society.
Journalists have nothing to fear? The slew of killings and attacks over the past two years, the sudden hike in libel cases, including one filed against Trubune publisher-editor Ninez Cacho-Olivarez by Mrs. Arroyo's personal lawyer, the tendency of provincial fiscals to take short cuts in helping those who seek to "punish" journalists via the libel route. There are plenty of reasons to fear a growing clampdown on press freedom, and the presidential mindset only underscores the danger of passing an anti-terrorism measure that can only give legal basis for a crackdown on independent journalism.
While fear will always hover due to these conditions, the NUJP calls on allFilipino journalists to transcend this and oppose and defy all efforts to curtail press freedom in this country. It is only by banding together that journalists can fight the scourge of tyranny.
It is time to remind the President and all other key actors in political strife: You do not have a monopoly on patriotism. Members of NUJP and all Filipino journalists also have a stake in democracy. It is in defense of democracy that media must stubbornly remain independent.
NUJP vice chair