Journalists cry foul over ‘red-tagging’, police interrogation

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TWO broadcast journalists of a Tagum City radio station were subjected to questioning by cops who identified themselves as intelligence officers, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said.

Erwin Batucan and Jojo Gales, both reporters of Radyo ni Juan Tagum City 100.7 FM,  were supposed to check on the police blotter at the Philippine National Police Provincial Office on April 8 but instead, they ended by being interrogated by police.

The Davao City chapter of NUJP in a statement said: “instead of getting the police blotter, the two were led to the Intelligence Division were they were held and interrogated for around 40 minutes.”

“Gales recounted that the intelligence officers kept asking them personal questions over and over such as their names, addresses, birthdates, educational background and previous work experiences,” NUJP said.  “Their answers were later filled up in a form and given to a person they believed was the chief of the intelligence division. They were not given an explanation why they were being asked these questions, and they were sent away.” 

NUJP said the experience of the two reporters showed the “usual response of the state security when they are being asked of issues on human rights committed by their colleagues.”

In a separate incident, the group also reported how Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, Lt. Lyndon Paniza, blasted Gales and Batucan’s radio station for being “biased and favoring the New People’s Army.”

Si Ka Oris na lang i-interview, kay mao man nay customer ninyo. Dili ko magpa-interview kay biased mo. Gina-monitor namo inyong istasyon. (You interview [NDF Mindanao spokesperson] Ka Oris because he is your customer. I don’t want to be interviewed because you are biased. We’ve been monitoring your station),” Paniza was quoted as saying.

NUJP said the PNP and AFP are once again resorting to “the usual brandishing of such journalists as biased and leftist, and profiling journalists through interrogation and spying which RnJ Tagum has also experienced in the past three months.”

“But such response brings a chilling effect to media workers.  State security forces here in Davao have likewise labelled human rights defenders as ‘leftists’ and ‘fronts of communist groups’, and these defenders have either ended up with cases and warrants of arrest filed against them, or worse faced bullets,” NUJP said.

Below is the statement of NUJP chair Rowena Paraan on these incidents:

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns and demands an immediate end to the harassment and surveillance of the personnel of Radyo ni Juan Tagum City 100.7 FM.

We likewise demand an immediate investigation and sanctions against military and police personnel who, in violation of their sworn duties, have engaged in this brazen attempt to stifle freedom of the press and of expression.

In particular, we demand the following of the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Office:

1.     The immediate identification of the Intelligence Division personnel who subjected Radyo ni Juan reporters Erwin Batucan and Jojo Gales to what can only be described as illegal interrogation and detention.

2.     The immediate investigation and discipline these two officers.

3.     To publicly hand over to Radyo ni Juan the information illegally extracted from Batucan and Gales.

4.     A notarized promise to end any and all surveillance of the radio station and its personnel.

5.     An immediate public apology and a written explanation from the provincial police director to the two reporters and to other personnel of the station, and to the media community in Davao del Norte, with the assurance that no such incident will ever occur again.

We also demand that the military, in particular the Philippine Army, end its irresponsible and dangerous Red baiting against Radyo ni Juan and apologize to the station for placing the life of its personnel in mortal danger.

While the claim of an Army spokesman that the radio station was “biased” for the New People’s Army is a tired scare tactic, there is no question that such accusations uttered publicly by state agents have almost always led to violence and other abuses against the targets of vilification, if not by the security forces themselves by paramilitaries and other groups under their control.

We thus demand that the Army place this spokesman under investigation for endangering the lives of civilians in violation both of his sworn duty and of the laws of the land.

We put both the police and military units in Davao del Norte on notice that we shall hold them accountable for any harm that may befall our Radyo ni Juan colleagues as a result of their irresponsible and illegal attempts to intimidate media and curtail press freedom.

Lastly, we demand that this administration once and for all fulfill its promise to protect press freedom and ensure respect of its citizens’ basic rights. | NewsDesk


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