Media can be held liable for disobeying government, justice secretary warns

CMFR/Philippines— The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has condemned an advisory issued by the secretary of justice warning chief  media networks and press groups that they risk “criminal liabilities” if they disobey government orders “during emergencies. “

The advisory warned media executives that their “networks or organizations may incur criminal liabilities under the law, if anyone of (their) field reporters, news gatherers, photographers, cameramen and other media practitioners will disobey lawful orders from duly authorized government officers and personnel during emergencies which may lead to collateral damage to properties and civilian casualties in case of authorized police or military operations.”

NUJP Chair Jose Torres Jr. said that “it’s an unfortunate thing for the DOJ to again intimidate media.” “The media need no reminder from the Justice secretary. We know our role,” Torres added.

Following the arrest of more than 30 journalists and media technicians who were covering the 29 November 2007 hotel take-over of a group led by a former military officer who’s now a senator, a government official had also warned the media on 5 December 2007  that they could be arrested again if they defy police orders while covering similar events.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, NUJP, and the Philippine Press Institute condemned the arrest as a violation of press freedom.

Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno told journalists in a 5 December 2007 dialogue between members of the media and government that such arrests like those of Nov. 29 were standard police procedure and will happen again if media people defy police orders to leave the scene of similar events.

Gonzalez also told journalists on 4 July 2007 that their phones could be tapped under the provisions of the country’s anti-terrorism law, also known as the Human Security Act of 2007.



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