The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounces the harassment of our US-based colleagues Steve Angeles, reporter of ABS-CBN, and Nimfa Rueda, Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent and NUJP-US chair, by apparent security men as they tried to cover the dedication of an Iglesia ni Cristo church in Bakersfield, California on February 20.
Angeles, in particular, was also singled out by INC members who vented their anger on him for what they perceived to be his network’s bias in covering the continuing controversy hounding the church. Others also blocked his attempts to shoot footage with placards.
The “men in black” also tailed the two reporters, videotaping them and taking shots of the license plate of Angeles’ car and loudly considering grabbing the ABS-CBN reporter’s camera. All this happened while the two journalists were outside the church compound, therefore in public space.
While the NUJP recognizes and respects the right of INC members to air their grievances against media entities they feel – rightly or wrongly – are biased against them, their freedom to do so does not include harassment or worse, and especially not of individual journalists merely going about their work.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time members of the church have gone beyond the bounds of free speech to threaten and actually physically assault journalists who happen to be working for news outfits they do not agree with. Colleagues were also attacked during the INC shutdown of EDSA last year. This leads us to consider that our call at the time to the leadership of the INC to compel their followers to respect press freedom and the role independent media play in our national life was either ignored or they unable to do so. Either way does not speak well of any religion.
Nevertheless, we once again call on the INC hierarchy to display true leadership and statesmanship and spare everyone not party to your conflicts from being victimized by partisans on either side of the divide.
In the face of this, we urge all our colleagues covering the continuing troubles within the INC to take extra care and immediately report any attempt to influence their work through intimidation or worse but to stand firm against curtailing our rights to pursue our profession and our duties to inform the people. We support any legal action our US colleagues may choose to take against this assault on their persons and profession.
RYAN D. ROSAURO