Media group upset over summons to journalists on Zambo standoff

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 September) – A media organization said it was “extremely disturbed” by moves asking at least three journalists to provide information on their meetings with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members involved in the standoff with government forces in Zamboanga City.

In a statement today, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the Zamboanga City Prosecutor’s Office has summoned Jimmy Villaflores and Teodyver Arquiza, both of RMN-Zamboanga, and Julie Alipala, Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent in Mindanao to share information on their encounters with the rebel group.

NUJP chair Rowena Paraan said the summons “clearly indicates that the fiscal’s office intended to use whatever information they provided in the government’s building of cases against MNLF members involved in the crisis.”

“We understand that Villaflores and Arquiza, who are, incidentally, also village officials, have refused to share any information with the fiscal, saying they would need the permission of their station and would also need to consult their lawyers before making a decision,” Paraan said.

She added she wasn’t sure if any other journalists have received a similar summons.

Paraan maintained the city prosecutor has no authority to issue a subpoena for materials collected by journalists in the course of their coverage, saying such materials are considered privileged information.

She cited Republic Act 53, or the Sotto Law, which shields journalists from being compelled to reveal their sources, unless so ordered by a court of law and only on matters relating to national security.

“We do not see how the materials collected by journalists through interviews with MNLF fighters can be considered national security matters, especially if these had already been part of published or broadcast news reports which, in this case, would only show up the shoddy work of those who seek to build cases against the rebels,” she said.

Paraan urged other journalists who may have received a similar summons to reject it outright.

Authorities have announced they would file charges against MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari and his followers who figured in the standoff. (MindaNews)