Threatening journalists criminal–NUJP
THE NATIONAL Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Monday expressed alarm over the continuous threats against journalists over reports that “do not sit well” with die-hard supporters of President Duterte.
“Threatening journalists when their reportage is disagreeable or erroneous is criminal, as is helping spread these threats, especially if any harm should befall the subjects of such opprobrium,” the NUJP said in a statement.
“We are worried over the continued vilification of media and attempts to lay the predicate to muzzle freedom of the press and of expression.”
NUJP was reacting to online threats made against Reuters reporters Karen Lema and Manuel Mogato, who were tagged in memes as “the real culprits behind the fuss” over Mr. Duterte’s controversial remarks that drew parallels between Adolf Hitler’s killing of Jews and the bloody war on drugs.
The posts accused the veteran journalists of “deliberately misreporting” the President’s Hitler remark, saying that “malicious and irresponsible journalists are the true enemies of democracy” and that they “should be punished with the full force of the law.”
After accusing the media again of taking him out of context, Mr. Duterte nevertheless apologized to the Jews for his controversial remarks which drew condemnation from Jewish leaders who demanded that he retract them and apologize.
Controls on press freedom
What started as an anonymous post became a meme containing the photos of Lema and Mogato, which circulated with comments calling for punitive action and controls on the freedom of the press.
Noting that journalism was not a crime, the NUJP expressed solidarity with the Reuters reporters and lamented that Mr. Duterte’s appeal to his supporters earlier not to threaten journalists seemed to “have fallen on deaf ears.”
“We stand by Manny Mogato and Karen Lema, and all other colleagues facing threats and other pressures because of the work they do, and are sure that all colleagues who take pride in the profession and serve the people’s right to know will do the same even as they continue to carry on their duties despite the risks and dangers they face,” the NUJP statement read.
“Mr. Duterte’s injunction to his supporters not to harm journalists and leave them to pursue independent reporting about his administration seems to have fallen on deaf ears, drowned out by the overflowing zeal of an army of social media warriors who are quick to deflect the slips in judgment and pronouncements he has made as if he is infallible,” it added.
The group said journalists would welcome any criticism as an opportunity to hone their craft, but noted that threatening them for doing their jobs was criminal.
“It is doubly unfortunate and ironic that among those who have joined what is practically an online lynching mob are people who are or have worked in media or the performing arts and related professions, and even activists who would not have been able to thrive if not for the very same freedom of the press and of expression they are now suggesting should be suppressed,” the NUJP said.
“We have said again and again that the media, and journalists, are not immune from criticism and, in fact, will always welcome it – no matter how harsh or even insulting – both as a means to engage with their audiences as well as to learn from them, especially when we do commit mistakes. Calling out those errors not only serves to better the journalism practice but also enrich the public discourse. But threatening journalists when their reportage is disagreeable or erroneous is criminal, as is helping spread these threats, especially if any harm should befall the subjects of such opprobrium,” it added.
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