NUJP condemns background checks on media

THE National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned on Thursday, February 8, the “Gestapo-like” way of conducting background checks on the new reporters covering the Philippine National Police (PNP).

"The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is outraged by the Gestapo-like methods the Philippine National Police utilized to verify the identities of journalists newly assigned to cover the organization," the NUJP said in a statement.

"While we welcome the assurance of PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao that they have put a stop to the heavy-handed vetting done by agents of what he now acknowledges is the Directorate for Intelligence, we reject his contention that 'we have no other way to verify' the identities of reporters fresh to the beat," it added.

The NUJP said that a simple phone call is enough to establish reporters’ bonafides pointing out that it has been the norm for generations covering the police beat.

It said that with what the PNP is doing, the right to privacy, communication and free movement of those being subjected to background checks are violated.

On Wednesday, PNP spokesperson Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao admitted that the PNP, particularly the Directorate for Intelligence, was tapped by former spokesperson Dionardo Carlos to conduct background checks on new journalists covering the agency.

Chief Inspector Josef Leo Angeles of the PNP-Public Information Office said the order stemmed from the arrest of a person who posed as a member of the PNP press corps and attended an event in Camp Crame.

He said the person was arrested after the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) found that he has a standing arrest warrant.

Four reporters - Roy Narra of the Manila Times, Amos Manalastas of Light Network, Rose Anne dela Cruz of Global News Network and Pathricia Ann Roxas of Inquirer.net - said police officers either called or visited their offices or homes and asked questions about them. They joined the PNP press corps only recently.

Bulalacao said the background check was just part of their validation of the new faces covering the police beat although he admitted that it may have been too much considering that it caused alarm among the persons subjected to the background investigation.

He said they would modify the process.

“Naisip namin na baguhin na lang natin ang process. Anyway, hindi naman masyado tedious dapat ang verification kapag may natanggap kami na endorsement, puwede niyang tawagan ‘yung nagpadala ng endorsement kung sino signatory for verification process or susulat officially sa outfit na ‘yun,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)

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