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Peace advocate defends closed meeting

Journalists barred from consultation with Mindanao executives

Peace advocate defends closed meeting
Peace advocates and government leaders during one of the peace consultations held in Mindanao (photo MPC)
Ryan D. Rosauro, Davao City

May 18, 2011

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A Filipino peace advocate today defended the decision of the government peace panel to bar journalists from attending a peace consultation with local executives in Mindanao.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, said the action of the panel must be understood in the context of "collecting inputs from political leaders and local government officials."

On Monday, journalists were barred from attending a dialogue between the panel and local leaders in the province of Basilan. Yesterday, the peace panel also prevented the media from joining a "courtesy call" with Zamboanga City mayor Celso Lobregat.

"At this point when they are still hearing out the sentiments and views of the local leaders, it might not be productive at all to open the exchanges to the scrutiny of the media as that might prevent a frank discussion of vital issues,” said Arnado

Bishop Martin Jumoad of Basilan earlier said it was "not proper" for the government to tell the media to leave during the meeting's "open forum," adding that the consultation aimed at promoting transparency.

"The media must be present to validate what they were discussing, and for the sake of the people. The people, through the media, deserve to know what is being discussed because it is the people who will live with that kind of life," Bishop Jumoad was quoted as saying by a local news report.

The prelate said the government peace panel should make all information open to the public and bring the discussion down to the grassroots.

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