Davao journalists join class suit for press freedom

Feb. 02, 2008

Davao City–Davao journalists join their Manila counterparts in the filing of the P10 million-class suit against top government officials, in a move to fight government’s attempt to curtail press freedom.

The 14-page petition circulated in different media outlets in the city gained wide support from the media, including the top editors of leading newspapers and managers of a radio station, who all signed the petition.

Carmelito Francisco, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines- Davao city chapter, said distance will not prevent local journalists from expressing their solidarity with other journalists in other parts of the country.

Even though we cannot go to Manila, signing the complaint expresses our show of support,” said Francisco, a managing editor of the Davao daily Mindanao Times.

He said that provincial journalists are isolated and are more prone to threats and harassments, compared to their national counterparts. He said local journalists expect the same show of unity and support from colleagues in other parts of the country when they’re in the same situation.

The government or any group that seeks to stifle press freedom should be aware that as journalists, we will not just take things sitting down,” he said. “We will strive hard to strengthen our ranks.”

Different media groups filed the petition as an offshoot of the arrest of more than 50 journalists who covered the “standoff between government troops and the Magdalo group led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in Manila Peninsula hotel on November 29 last year.

Included as respondents were Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr., AFP Chief Of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., PNP Director General Avelino Razon, Jr., Director Geary Barias of National Capital Region Police Office, Chief Superintendent Leocadio Santiago of PNP Special Action Force, and Senior Supt. Asher Dolina of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

Rizalene Acac, a reporter of the daily newspaper Mindanao Times, said it is wrong for government to restrict freedom of expression because it is a basic Constitutional right.

“If we, in the media, are hampered in exploring, sourcing and angling our stories, how can we perform our role? she said.

Francisco said more things should be done to raise the awareness of the media of their rights as journalists.

“We should encourage our colleagues to unite,” he said. (Grace Uddin/davaotoday.com)

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