Palace supports Justice, media talks on advisory

By Angelo S. Samonte Reporter

Chief presidential legal counsel Sergio Apostol said he supports the call for a dialogue between the Department of Justice and media groups over the controversial advisory issued by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez on the conduct of media coverages during crisis or emergency situations.

This early, Apostol clarified the advisory came from Gonzalez and not from President Gloria Arroyo. Gonzalez also stressed on Monday that only the President can make him withdraw the advisory.

On Monday, Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said a dialogue between media groups and the Justice department would clear up misconceptions about the advisory, which actually warned media organizations against interfering in police and military operations, or risk facing criminal charges.

Gonzalez issued the warning on reports that there is a possible plot to overthrow President Arroyo this month.

“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,” the advisory warned.

The advisory was issued a few months after several media people covering the November 29 Makati standoff were hauled to a military camp for “processing.” The journalists were later released without charges.

Media protests

Meanwhile, the Malacañang Press Corps said in a statement that the advisory is unnecessary because journalists are aware of their duties and responsibilities during coverages, especially during conflict situations.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media group based in New York, earlier called for the withdrawal of the advisory.

On the other hand, the National Press Club, through its President Roy Mabasa, issued its own advisory to the media saying that “ no criminal liabilities or violations of any law are incurred by any editor, reporter, journalist, columnist, cameraman, photographer or member of the media in the strict performance of their duty to report news as it happens and in their exercise of the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression and of the press and in keeping with the public’s right to know.”

The press club likewise reminded the police and the military to adhere to the rule of law, specifically the Bill of Rights which guarantees freedom of expression.

Congress support

At least two representatives support the move of the Palace for the Justice department and media to dialogue over the advisory.

Reps. Rozzano Rufino Biazon of Muntinlupa and Satur Ocampo of the left-leaning Bayan Muna party-list, however, assailed the advisory, calling it a threat to freedom of the press.

Biazon, vice-chairman of the House Committee on National Defense said a dialogue would be the appropriate avenue to come up with the proper guidelines.

“The guidelines should be drawn up by consensus between government and media. Then the media should regulate themselves or police their own ranks,” Biazon said.

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