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Media group raises alarm on harassment of journalists covering political campaign


Respect freedom of the pressTHE  National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has expressed grave concern over the increasing harassment of journalists who are covering the election campaign and asked the candidates to call for calm among their supporters.

NUJP chair Ryan D. Rosauro said the NUJP, in its monitoring of the plight of journalists in the campaign trail, has noted “a pattern of harassment perpetrated by supporters of Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) presidential bet Davao City Mayor Rodrrigo Duterte.”

The NUJP cited the following incidents:

  • Vera Files editor Ellen Tordesillas was bullied in social media for her effort to verify the existence of the assailed BPI bank account of Mayor Duterte;
  • Alleging biased reporting, supporters harassed numerous times ABS-CBN reporter Raffy Santos while following Duterte in the campaign trail;
  • Jacque Manabat was cursed by a supporter after a man identified her as an ABS-CBN reporter;
  • A camera crew of ABS-CBN reporter Doris Bigornia was thrown punches during a coverage;
  • On Friday morning, May 6, a wreath was laid outside the ABS-CBN station in Davao City bearing the words: “RIP ABS-CBN”;
  • There have been calls in social media for an “occupy ABS-CBN” in Davao and Cagayan de Oro cities; and
  • There have been numerous posts in social media inciting hate and anger, especially against ABS-CBN reporters.
Wreath delivered at ABS-CBN Davao. Photo from Nonoy Espina Facebook page.
Wreath delivered at ABS-CBN Davao. Photo from Nonoy Espina Facebook page.

NUJP noted that the harassment against ABS-CBN reporters and crew became bolder after the broadcast company aired a paid advertisement carrying a negative campaign message against Duterte.

“His (Duterte) supporters must understand that the ad was aired based on a commercial consideration and has nothing to do with the journalistic mission of ABS-CBN, “ NUJP explained.

NUJP also said while  the attacks by Duterte sympathizers against the journalists appear unorganized, spontaneous and bereft of official sanction, it welcomes the previous instances when Duterte’s spokesman, Peter Tiu Laviἧa, called for calm among their supporters.

This was when ABS-CBN’s Karen Davila was a target of cyberbullying for her perceived bias against Duterte during the  third presidential debate hosted by ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin.

“A renewed call may be needed at this point given the already heated atmosphere as we move closer to Election Day, not just from Duterte’s camp but from those of other candidates, as well, since we cannot discount the possibility of rival operators exploiting the situation for their own ends, “ NUJP asked the candidates and their campaign leaders.

“We hope that such call for calm, when issued, will help ease the social tension that our colleagues, especially those from ABS-CBN, will be facing and dealing with in the course of covering the conduct of the general elections, and save them from possible physical harm,” NUJP further said.

The rest of the NUJP statement:

“It is important that journalists are not hindered by threats in carrying out the work that they do because our people deserve quality information at this crucial period of our country’s history so that they are able to decide better in the ballot.

“The negative campaigning added fire to the already highly charged discussions in social media about an alleged plan to rig the results of the upcoming polls and possibly snatch from Duterte his supposedly impending victory. Perhaps, it may also help ease the tension if the other presidential contenders declare their commitment not to resort to poll manipulation in order to clinch victory.

“We express concern over the safety and security of our colleagues in the provinces, especially those in areas dubbed as election hotspots, who will be covering the poll conduct. We understand that they are under extremely dangerous situations especially in their effort to uncover the poll manipulations which to this day has refused to leave our electoral system despite the adoption of automated vote counting.

“We urge our colleagues to adhere to the tenets of safety and security in going about our work of chronicling the 2016 political exercise.

“Should there be threats, harassment, intimidation, or any untoward incidents befalling you, please don’t hesitate to keep in touch with the NUJP Media Safety Office through hotline numbers 09175155991 and 09278652343.”