File photo of NPA guerillas operating in Surigao del Sur on the move along the San Miguel and Marihatag border. INTERAKSYON FILE PHOTO
MANILA – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has taken President Duterte to task for his recent remarks tagging certain journalists as communist rebels.
In a statement issued by its acting chair Atty. Jo Clemente, and Secretary-General Dabet Panelo, the NUJP warned of the dangers that the President’s reckless statements may visit on journalists doing their tasks of covering various groups and sectors in the countryside, including rebels and left-leaning personalities.
The risk becomes heightened by the fact that the President has recently declared the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines “terrorists,” thus providing State forces more leeway in cracking down on suspected CPP-NPA members.
BELOW IS THE NUJP STATEMENT:
President Duterte’s sweeping and, as has often been the case, unsubstantiated claim that some journalists are members or maintain links with communist rebels is a potential death warrant against colleagues.
In an interview with a radio station on December 19, President Duterte claimed that some journalists are members of the Left.
According to the official transcript:
“I do not want to add more strain to what people are now suffering. ‘Yung kata****** ng NPA. Sinong NPA dito? Halika nga.
“Tapos pagtalikod mo, marami. Sige na, sige na. Walang hiyaan. Huwag kayo mahiya. Sino? T*** i*** ang ni sino sa inyo walang kamay ni isa. May alam ako mga journalists na Left talaga. O baka nagkadre doon sa Cordillera.”
We note that there is nothing wrong and even necessary to have links with all sectors, groups and personalities in and out of government, including the NPA, as news sources.
Apologists may again try to make light of Mr. Duterte’s latest drivel, but in a country that remains one of the deadliest in the world for journalists, there is cause to worry about the consequences of this irresponsible claim from the highest elected official of the land.
Specifically, Duterte’s claim directly endangers our colleagues who work in the Cordillera region but does the same for those elsewhere in the country.
At best, it is bound to cast a chilling effect on journalists who intend to cover the communist rebels in continuing efforts to better explain the roots and directions of the close to half-a-century old civil strife, at worst it would embolden those, including state agents, who seek to silence us by giving them the convenient cover of counterinsurgency.
With this penchant for such wild and dangerous claims added to his well-known aversion to those who do not agree with him, we fear it will not be long until Duterte directly targets the critical media in his government’s efforts to stamp out dissent.
We call on the independent Philippine media and all Filipinos who cherish our rights and freedoms to stand together in common cause and oppose all attempts to silence us.