Media urged to defy demands to bare Zambo siege info-A A +A
Thursday, September 26, 2013
ILIGAN CITY – Journalists have asked colleagues and news organizations to defy efforts by authorities to disclose information they gathered during their coverage on the standoff in Zamboanga City between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) since September 9.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported that three Zamboanga-based reporters got summons from the City Prosecutor’s Office asking them to provide information of their meetings with MNLF fighters involved in the standoff.
NUJP–Zamboanga chapter chair Frencie Carreon identified the journalists as Jimmy Villaflores and Teodyver Arquiza, both of RMN-Zamboanga, and Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Julie Alipala who is also a member of the group’s national directorate.
Since Tuesday afternoon, Carreon said NUJP-Zamboanga has been verifying if other journalists have also received similar summons.
In a statement, the NUJP said it is “extremely disturbed” by these developments.
As a result of the siege of Zamboanga City, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing rebellion charges against several MNLF renegades, among them is founder Nur Misuari and his top lieutenant, Habier Malik who allegedly led the attacks.
“The summons... clearly indicate that the Fiscal’s office intended to use whatever information they (could) provide in the government’s building of cases against MNLF members involved in the crisis,” the NUJP notes.
“Authorities have no business compelling journalists to disclose information,” it stressed.
The group pointed out that Republic Act No. 53, or known as the Sotto Law (after its author, Sen. Vicente Sotto Sr.), shields journalists from being compelled to reveal their sources, unless so ordered by a court, 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,” the NUJP explained.
Carreon said that the journalists summoned have refused to share information from their respective coverage.
Villaflores and Arquiza, who are also village officials, told authorities they would need the permission of their station and would also need to consult their lawyers before making a decision, Carreon added.
“We commend Villaflores, Arquiza, and Alipala for refusing to acquiesce to the prosecutor’s request and urge them to continue doing so,” the NUJP said.
“We also urge media outfits which may receive similar requests, whether in Zamboanga or elsewhere, to compel their news staff to hand over information to reject such requests outright,” it further said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 26, 2013.