Threat to Davao broadcaster Elgin Damasco is an attempt to intimidate the press — NUJP Davao

Mar. 23, 2009

Threat to Davao broadcaster Elgin Damasco is an attempt to intimidate the press — NUJP Davao

We condemn the latest attack on our colleague, RMN-DXDC Davao broadcaster Elgin Damasco who received a text message that constituted a threat to his life.

Damasco received a text message last week from sender 0905-507-5929 that read: “Ka Damasco, mula ng kayong 3 ay naging spokesman ng NPA, matagumpay kayong nanalo sa propaganda laban sa AFP, dahil dyan may reward kayong 3 (Ka Damasco, since the three of you became spokespersons of the New People’s Army, the Armed Forces of the Philippines lost in the propaganda war and because of that, a reward awaits the three of you).

We have to take note that Damasco has been covering reports on alleged abuses by the military against civilians in the region of Southern Mindanao.

During one of his coverage a few weeks ago, he got into a confrontation with the military in Paquibato District of Davao City. This happened when Damasco and his team allowed the Paquibato residents to ride in their RMN vehicle to get to the City Council for a hearing on the military abuses. Their vehicle was stopped at a military checkpoint and the residents were asked to bring out their cedula (community tax certificate) with specific instructions that only those bearing the initials of a military officer would be honoured.

Unnerved by such requisite for a pass, Damasco told everyone in the vehicle that they had the option not to bring out their cedulas. This resulted in an altercation between him and the military officer manning the checkpoint, which Damasco put live on air.

Damasco also reported the story of Benedictine nun, Sister Stella Matutina, and three other anti-mining advocates who were rounded up and detained for eight hours by soldiers at the village hall of Barangay Taytayan in Baganga town, Davao Oriental. The military had denied Sr. Matutina’s claim but Damasco’s investigation into the matter proved otherwise.

He was also one of the journalists who interviewed NPA leader Commander Parago following the gruesome murder of his daughter, Rebelyn Pitao.

In light of Damasco’s recent reports, the text message was clearly meant to intimidate him and all other journalists who have the dedication and the courage to brave the dangerous route of Southern Mindanao to get the real score on the seeming disregard of human rights in these places.

We raise concern on the safety of our colleague. Already, burly-looking men had been seen by neighbours of Damasco, roaming within the vicinity of his home and that of RMN station manager Dodong Solis. The men, according to Damasco’s neighbours, were asking of his whereabouts and that of Solis.

It is just sad that in an environment where the press is an instrument for people to air their grievances, we have become the target of violence.

As we ask colleagues to remain strong and united against these attacks, for the benefit of the people to whom and, only, whose interest we are beholden to serve, we likewise ask the people to help fight for a free press.

In these times, we cannot find a better ally than the people who ultimately are the victims of these assaults on press freedom.

Stop the attacks on journalists! Defend press freedom!

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines – Davao City Chapter (NUJP-Davao)

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