BY EVANGELINE DE VERA
JUSTICE Secretary Raul Gonzalez yesterday said only President Arroyo could make him withdraw an advisory he issued last week in which he told media practitioners not to interfere in legitimate police and military operations on the pain of sanctions.
He dismissed the call of a New York-based media group Committee to Protect Journalists to withdraw his advisory on the ground that it poses a threat to press freedom and democracy.
He said he takes orders only from the President, and the foreign media group can “go jump in the lake.”
“Only narrow-minded people will think like that, that includes the foreign media. Why are we so happy that a foreign group is meddling with us? These are like the parachute journalists who come here for two days and then go back experts about the Philippines,” he said.
“I will not withdraw that, only the President can tell me to withdraw that. That was issued in good faith that was preceded by the words ‘please be reminded,’” he said.
In the one-page advisory he issued Friday, Gonzalez said: “Please be reminded that your respective companies, networks or organizations may incur criminal liabilities under the law, if anyone of your 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.”
The advisory was issued more than a month after the Manila Peninsula hotel standoff led by Oakwood mutiny leader Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
About 50 media men covering the incident, their hands tied with plastic thongs, were hauled to the Metro Manila police headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig after Trillanes and his group surrendered to police authorities.
Gonzalez has said his “reminder” was not meant to send a chilling effect to the media. On Saturday, he said the advisory was prompted by an intelligence report of a new plot against the Arroyo administration.
PNP chief Avelino Razon Jr. said Gonzalez’ advisory is meant to preserve life and property and not to suppress press freedom.
“We don’t want to be responsible for media deaths,” Razon also said.
Cerge Remonde, chief of the Presidential Management Staff and former head of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, said he was wiling to arrange a dialogue between the DOJ and the media to clear any possible misunderstanding.
But he said he was leaving the matter to the justice department in the meantime.
Government officials met with representatives of media organizations in the aftermath of the Peninsula standoff, but Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno only threatened media with arrest if found “obstructing justice.”
Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said the advisory should be viewed from the perspective that “the rights of every Filipino must be respected, including media which has a right to press freedom and pursue diligently their profession; the public which has the right to be protected by the state in maintaining peace and order; and the police and military which has the right to pursue their job of protecting and ensuring the safety and welfare of the people.
“The manner of implementation to maintain these rights somehow are open for the discussions and interpretations which need thorough review by all stakeholders in order to prevent misunderstandings.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol said the advisory was simply a reminder.
“May chilling effect sa media? Bakit? Ina-advise-an lang naman kayo na huwag kayong makialam doon sa barilan. Why should you be worried about it?” he said.
He added that being an “advice,” the media could either accept or reject it.
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