DOJ media restrictions ‘curtailment of press freedom’ – NUJPBy Tetch Torres
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) denounced the decision of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to relocate members of the media to another building due to intelligence report that its proximity to the officials is a security risk.
While the NUJP recognizes the right of the DoJ to relocate offices, it said that “to require media to first seek clearance before they can conduct interviews and perform the other tasks necessary for their work smacks of prior restraint, therefore, a curtailment of press freedom.”
The Justice Reporters Organization (JUROR) and the Justice and Court Reporters Association (JUCRA) have been holding office at the DoJ’s main building adjacent to the Office of the Secretary of Justice for over 20 years. JUCRA has been in existence since 1977 while JUROR was set up in the mid-80s after the restoration of democracy with the instalment of then President Corazon Aquino in Malacañang.
The DoJ Executive Committee headed by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima cited a report from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) recommending that ambush interviews should not be allowed.
While they said that the media can still interview DoJ officials, it is upon arrangement with the information office but the area where the two offices originally holding office will be off limits to the media as well as to DoJ employees.
“That these changes have been made on the recommendation of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency also leaves the impression that the media and the work they do are considered a threat to security…While this saddens us no end, it also appears to be indicative of how this administration sees us – not as an indispensable cornerstone of democracy but the enemy,” NUJP through Rowena C. Paraan, its Secretary-General.
Militant group Bayan earlier expressed alarm over the restrictions to be imposed by the DoJ to the media.
“While I understand that Sec. de Lima needs to be secured from possible threats, the NICA assessment that threats could come from the presence of media in the DOJ premises is a dangerous proposition. The same reasoning could be used to evict other press offices in other government agencies,” Renato Reyes, Secretary General of Bayan explained.
The media will be moved out of the DoJ main building within two months.