It also shows how members of the local media have become easy targets of such attacks by abusive public officials.
We recognize the support of the Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) who are helping protect the interest of the public in a democracy, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) and all fellows in the profession who are gathered here today to show our collective indignation.
Roel Sembrano was doing his daily morning program, Haring Lungsod Ikaw ang Nasayod at Radyo Natin Compostela early morning on October 24 when Compostela Valley Provincial Board Member Neri Barte, the subject of his criticism, barged into the announcer's booth, mauled him and drew out a gun on him.
What happens to Sembrano is a matter of concern to all journalists because the one who did it is a public official who should know his actions must be open to public scrutiny; and that it is part of the job of every journalist to guard that mandate.
That the official in question attacked a journalist right in the announcer's booth and on air is simply intolerable. An announcer's booth is to a broadcaster what a pulpit is to a priest.
As practicing journalists, we believe that our profession does not lack proper forum, where Barte can ventilate whatever complaints he might have on Sembrano.
But instead, he showed brazen disrespect on the rights of Sembrano as a person, and abused and threatened him right in a place, where as a broadcaster, Sembrano is supposed to carry out his role as “watchdog” of democracy.
Actions of public officials like Barte are dangerous. It is the kind of mentality that threatens the democracy that we vowed to protect. Such acts of a public official must be condemned, not only by the media as a sector, but also by fellow public officials.
We challenge our fellow journalists to strengthen our unity and protect our ranks in the light of the continuing attacks that are happening right now.
It's only through our unity with our fellow journalists that we can preserve whatever is left of the press freedom that has constantly been attacked and threatened in the country.
Let our unity and solidarity be strong enough to guard against all possible attacks against press freedom!
Carmelito Q. Francisco
Chairperson, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Davao Chapter
Chairperson, Kapisan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) Davao Chapter