shades of musharaff. 50 pinoy journalists arrested by the police for covering the trillanes event
- From: joey de lion <socculturefilipino@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2007 06:17:57 -0800 (PST)
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 6) More than 50 journalists who covered
the takeover of the Manila Peninsula hotel were taken into custody,
many of them in handcuffs, by police following the arrest of Senator
Antonio Trillanes IV and Brigadier General Danilo Lim and other
renegade soldiers early Thursday evening.
TV feeds showed members of an ABS-CBN news team, including the
technical crew of the network's OB van, being loaded onto a bus as
they raised their cuffed wrists. On-air interviews with the arrested
journalists also revealed that video footage of the standoff had also
been seized by authorities.
GMA television reported that their technical team and reporter Sandra
Aguinaldo had also been taken into custody.
Other journalists seen by INQUIRER.net reporters being taken into
custody were Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas, DJ Yap and Julie
Aurelio of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Chona Yu of Radio Veritas,
Noel Alamar of dzMM, and Raoul Esperas of dwIZ.
Yap refused to be handcuffed because, he said, the police did not even
say why they were being arrested.
The Associated Press reported an AP Television News cameraman was
among those arrested.
As the arrested journalists were being loaded onto a police bus, they
and colleagues who had covered the standoff from outside the hotel and
were, thus not arrested, chanted "Freedom of the press."
There were reports that the journalists could be charged with
obstruction of justice for refusing to heed police warnings to leave
the Manila Peninsula.
Media organizations cried foul, saying freedom of speech is
constitutionally guaranteed in a nation priding itself with having a
lively, freewheeling media system.
The arrest of the journalists drew almost immediate condemnation from
the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which
demanded that authorities stop treating journalists "as enemies of the
It called the arrest of the journalists a "knee-jerk reaction" that
spoiled what government could have claimed as a political victory.
"This government claims it is protecting democracy. It should realize
that media is a prime component of the democracy it purports to
serve," the NUJP said.
"We were just doing our job. This is our right," said Charie Villa,
head of news gathering at ABS-CBN, which provided live coverage of the
hotel siege throughout the day.
Police had earlier said they were taking the journalists who covered
the standoff from inside the hotel to the National Capital Region
Police Office in Bicutan for questioning.
Asked about the journalists' arrest, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said: "Papalayain din namin yan [We
will eventually free them]."
Pressed about why the journalists had to be arrested, Razon said it
was "impossible to process all of them in the lobby," claiming that
there were members of the Magdalo group who had tried to disguise
themselves as members of media.
In Malacañang, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered police to
speed up the processing of the journalists and release them if there
was no more reason to detain them.
"Pakawalan sila agad kung wala nang dahilan para manatili sila sa
ilalim ng pulis [Release them immediately if there is no more reason
to keep them in police custody]," Arroyo said in a televised statement
In a news briefing prior to Arroyo's statement, Interior and Local
Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno justified the journalists' arrest
for not heeding the police's call to leave the hotel.
Puno said that while he recognized the "bravery" of the journalists
who covered the incident, by remaining at the hotel they were
"wittingly or unwittingly obstructing justice."
Hundreds of journalists swamped the Manila Peninsula Hotel in the
capital's financial district, Makati, shortly after word spread that
rebel troops were heading there. For seven hours, live TV coverage
showed interviews with the soldiers as well as shots of government
troops taking positions outside -- much to the discomfort of the
When the government asked journalists to leave before security forces
stormed the hotel, most refused.
"In the first place, it was for the safety of correspondents there.
Thank God that a firefight did not break out. But bullets don't choose
their victims when they start to fly," he said.
"I don't think it was very wise for people to remain there," he said.
"Maybe they do not realize that when you stay there you become an
obstruction to police officers who are in an operation."
He said the detained journalists were taken to a police camp for
"processing" -- to verify their identities.
But the NUJP said it was "overkill" to handcuff the journalists and
dismissed the explanation of police officials and Defense Secretary
Gilbert Teodoro "that the move was made to prevent the escape of
Magdalo troops does not wash."
"While we concede the PNP's [Philippine National Police] right to
conduct a thorough investigation of a crime -- and we do not dispute
that the takeover of the Peninsula was a crime -- the police ought to
follow legal procedures," the group said. "Invitations to questioning
should be differentiated from coercion; journalists have the option to
accept the invitation and, certainly, should be accorded the basic
right to counsel."
While the NUJP acknowledged "authorities' right to demand a halt to
coverage that could jeopardize the lives of state security forces," it
said "any move for redress should pass through normal channels,
involving management of television stations and not lowly ground
The organization said the decision of the journalists inside the hotel
not to leave "did not block authorities from doing their tasks."
"We see clear danger in the government's seemingly hasty
interpretation that the coverage and reporting of the standoff
threatens national security," said Amado Macasaet, chairman of the
Philippine Press Institute. "We object to this undisguised martial law
Lawmakers also came down hard on the media arrests.
Senator Manuel Roxas II "strongly warned" police against taking
custody of journalists or any of their video footage "without due
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