DOJ cracks down on media

By Jomar Canlas, Reporter

JUSTICE Secretary Raul Gonzalez threatened media owners and press
organizations with criminal charges if they allow their reporters,
photographers and cameramen to obstruct “authorized police or military
operations.”

The warning was stated in a department advisory dated January 11 and
addressed to “chief executive officers of media networks, media companies
and press groups and entities.” Copies of the advisory were distributed to
reporters covering the Justice beat, particularly the Justice Reporters’
Organization (Juror) and Justice and Court Reporters Association (Jucra).

The National Press Club of the Philippines lashed out at the advisory for
its “chilling effect” on the press and curtailing press freedom.

Roy Mabasa, Press Club president, said he had received a copy of the
advisory, which, he added, practically confirmed government policy of
regulating media coverage.

“This is the exact meaning of chilling effect. This has now become a
policy of the government for it is now in black and white. This means that
they are ready to crack down on the media,” Mabasa told The Manila Times.

In the department advisory, Gonzalez said the media owners and press
organizations “may incur criminal liabilities” if their reporters,
photographers and cameramen “will disobey lawful orders from duly
authorized government officers and personnel during emergencies.” He added
that such disobedience “may lead to collateral damage to [property] and
civilian casualties in case of authorized police or military operations.”

The advisory issued by Gon­zalez may be related to the standoff at Manila
Peninsula hotel last December led by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th and Army
Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim. Reporters covering the failed rebellion were
arrested, handcuffed and jailed for allegedly obstructing police and
military operations.

An associate justice of the Supreme Court who talked to The Times on
condition that he not be named said the Gonzalez advisory flouts the Bill
of Rights
enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

The magistrate added that the advisory violates “freedom of the press” and
“freedom of expression.”

“You cannot restrain the media from doing their job,” the associate
justice said.

A high-ranking official of the justice department also criticized the
Gonzalez advisory, which he described as “clearly disagreeable and
unlawful.”

“The order of Secretary Gonzalez is clearly illegal. While he is my boss,
he is wrong [in threatening the media owners and press organizations] ,”
the official said.

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