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Journalists, police urged to attend Philippine rights seminar

Knowing press freedom and free speech is key to upholding them, says Radyo Veritas

Protesters clash with police officers outside the Commission of Human Rights to denounce the 2022 election results in Quezon City, suburban Manila, on May 25

Protesters clash with police officers outside the Commission of Human Rights to denounce the 2022 election results in Quezon City, suburban Manila, on May 25. (Photo: Maria Tan/AFP)

Published: June 22, 2022 09:54 AM GMT

Updated: June 22, 2022 11:19 AM GMT

A Catholic media station in the Philippines has urged law enforcers and media workers to attend a United Nations sponsored webinar on the protection of press freedom and freedom of expression from July 1-2.

Church-run Radyo Veritas said on June 21 that journalists and policemen must grab the opportunity to know the importance of press freedom and freedom of speech in a democratic society.

“There have been many abuses by police enforcers of journalists in the last two years mainly because they did not know the importance of a free press in a democratic society. The media is the watchdog in the country. Journalists are not the enemy of the state,” said Catholic media spokesman Father Jun de la Paz of Virac Diocese in the Bicol region.

Father de la Paz mentioned an incident in 2020 when policemen violently blocked journalists covering the oral arguments of the highly controversial Anti-Terror Law in the Philippines.

“Last June 25 and 25 in Manila, two media men covering a public demonstration against the Anti-Terror Law were arrested by policemen together with 20 activists. The policemen arrested them even if they knew they were journalists because they were holding their cameras,” Father de la Paz told UCA News.

The clergyman also criticized the police practice of asking for identification cards of journalists to threaten them by filing libel charges.

“We urge our law enforcers to attend this UN-sponsored seminar because we want them to appreciate that journalists are not enemies of the state. We are guardians of democracy"

“Some of our members [in the media] were asked to show their identification cards. Policemen took pictures of them and warned that they would file libel suits should they write something they didn’t like in their reports. This is plain harassment,” Father de la Cruz said.

“We urge our law enforcers to attend this UN-sponsored seminar because we want them to appreciate that journalists are not enemies of the state. We are guardians of democracy.”

The media network also said the webinar was timely just as President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, won the recent presidential election.

“Bongbong Marcos may have won in the election but many sectors, particularly those in the media, can still remember what happened during martial law — a dark era when media outlets were closed and dissenters were put in jail. This webinar should help us refresh our memory as a people,” Father de la Cruz said.

The Marcoses’ rule from 1972 to 1981 was marked by grave human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances.

Thousands of disappearances were allegedly perpetuated by police officers and military men including the assassination of opposition lawmaker Benigno Aquino Jr., husband of late president Corazon Aquino.

Radyo Veritas contributed to the People Power Revolution when the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, then archbishop of Manila, called on Catholics to go to EDSA as part of the movement to oust Marcos and his allies.

“We have always been on the side of truth. That is our mandate as a Catholic media institution. That is why journalists and law enforcers should know what we fought for before during the Marcos dictatorship,” Father de la Paz said.

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