DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 November) — The local chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) slammed Malacanang for barring around 20 reporters from covering the second day (November 6) of the Philippine Development Forum on the Bangsamoro.
In a statement, NUJP Davao City chair Jessie Casalda said the move to bar around 20 members of the Davao media from entering the venue was an act of disrespect.
The forum was held at the SMX Convention Center in Lanang, Davao City.
Casalda demanded an explanation from organizers of the event as well as the Office of the President.
“It was, by all measure, disrespectful for the Office of the President to invite journalists to cover an important event and later shame them by disallowing entry to the forum where the President himself was to deliver a speech on the government’s efforts to ensure the progress of the Bangsamoro and the people of Mindanao,” Casalda said.
“The act was a form of harassment of the members of the Fourth EState whose only intention was to cover the forum. It was, at the same time, a classic act of clipping media freedom by a government that supposedly banners transparency and accountability.”
NUJP said the Palace was yet to issue a statement on the incident.
“However, a member of the Malacanang Media Accreditations and Relations Office (Maro) was only heard saying there were too many journalists covering the event already,” the NUJP added.
But members of the Davao media noted that a group of Manila-based reporters was allowed easy access to the venue despite having arrived past the “cut-off time”.
In a post on her Facebook account, MindaNews and Our Mindanao editor-in-chief Carolyn O. Arguillas said the organizers could not seem to agree on the cut-off time for the entry of reporters who wanted to cover the forum.
Arguillas said one of the organizers said the cut-off time was 9:00 a.m., another one said 9:30 a.m. and yet another one said 10:00 a.m.
“And yet you allowed the Malacanang Press Corps in even if they came past your supposed cut-off? We have no quarrel with the Malacanang beat reporters, it’s their right to cover just as it is the right of local reporters to cover.
“But you have cut-off for locals and no cut-off for Malacanang reporters, expect the local media to protest — those who were barred and those of us who were already inside.
“If your institutional memory started only in 2010, we have a longer institutional memory. We have a long history of walkouts and quarrels with the entrance guards. When will you ever learn?
“P.S. Please learn to respect the media accreditation cards issued by government for us to gain access to the coverage venue. If you in government can’t honor these cards, please do not issue them anymore!” Arguillas said.
Other Mindanao-based journalists also posted on Facebook their own negative experiences in covering events involving President Aquino, former presidents and other high officials from Manila.
The NUJP also questioned the singling out of DavaoToday.com photographer Ace Morandante even if the other reporters were already allowed to enter around 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
“We also demand an explanation from the Office of the President why it singled out Morandante despite the proper accreditation and endorsement given to him from the Philippine Information Office, the state’s information arm,” Casalda said.
“It is disconcerting to think that the proclivity of the Aquino administration to treat media with disrespect is becoming one of the bad habits of the Aquino administration.”
“We take this as a symptom of a plague that hit the psyche of the administration – paranoia. And we ask — what kind of government is afraid of its people?” (MindaNews)