Protection of sources, a cornerstone of press freedom

Oct. 06, 2007

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines expresses utmost concern over moves by senators to cite a reporter in contempt for refusing to reveal her sources, have a newspaper investigated and, worst, amend or repeal the law protecting confidential news sources.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer last Sunday published a story quoting unnamed sources describing how Sen. Joker Arroyo reportedly blocked the testimony of former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri during the Senate close-door hearing. Juliet Labog-Javellana wrote the story.

Arroyo filed a resolution yesterday seeking to investigate the Inquirer for publishing the report. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Benigno Aquino III and Francis Escudero supported Arroyo’s resolution. Enrile went further to suggest citing the reporter for contempt unless she revealed her sources.

This is intimidation and a violation of the principles of press freedom. This is unacceptable.

Enrile also urged the repeal or amendment of Republic Act No. 53 or the Sotto Law that protects the publisher, editor, columnist or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation from being compelled to reveal their sources.

The Sotto Law, also known as the Press Freedom Law, is aimed precisely to protect press freedom and keep irate politicians from intimidating journalists and their sources if they do not like what they read.

Protection of confidential sources of information is also an obligation for journalists and key to getting informants to come forward. This is particularly important in uncovering, among others, corruption in government.

If the Press Freedom Law is repealed or weakened, sources would be deterred from coming forward and the public would remain uninformed about vital matters.

The NUJP supports Ms. Labog-Javellana and the Inquirer in their decision not to reveal the identities of the sources.

The fact that these shameful actions are being initiated by senators, who should know that protection of journalists’ sources is an essential part of press freedom, makes it even more reprehensible.

Joe Torres Jr., Chairperson
Rowena Paraan, Secretary-General

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