Express and Explore Yourself

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Journalist union defends missing Jordanian, Union said writer did not need permission to cover story

Manila: The Filipino journalist union supported a Jordanian broadcast journalist who was branded by Philippine authorities as a terrorist after he remained missing while interviewing a local terror leader in the southern Philippines on June 12. Baker Abdullah Atyani who interviewed Abu Sayyaf leader Yaser Igasan in Patikul, Sulu, southern Philippines on June 12, was a victim when he was reported missing on June 12. A Philippine government official “has no basis maligning the reputation of a journalist – foreign or local, simply on the basis of guilt by association from stories that they legitimately gathered and reported,” the National Union of Journalists of Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement.

Branding Atyani as a conduit of the Al Qaida terror network was “irresponsible,” said NUJP, adding that this kind of thinking and assessment from Philippine authorities could “endanger the lives of journalists” who interview sources other than government officials.“The flimsy reason of this suspicion—his interviews with Osama bin Laden (in June 2001) —also stereotypes and endangers journalists who conduct interviews on personalities and groups considered to be illegal and enemies of the state,” the NUJP said.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo was also told to “think twice in ordering a ban against any legitimate journalist – local or foreign as this is a clear affront to the freedom of the press,” the NUJP said.At the same time, “journalists do not need approval especially from government, the police and the military, before covering a story,” the NUJP reminded authorities, adding the Philippines is not under a Martial Law rule and it is not a police state.

“Journalists and media groups have since advocated for safe coverage in conflict situations; while Atyani’s foray into Jolo, Sulu, was not without its perils, he (Atyani) knew the risks and until he cannot explain himself, we should give him the benefit of the doubt and not impute any baseless and irresponsible statements (against him),” the NUJP said.Because of Robredo’s statement, regional police officers have decided to draft a guideline for journalists to follow.In response, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that government officials should uphold press freedom while they uphold issues of national security.

Political killings in the Philippines have targeted journalists, making the Philippines one of the most dangerous places for journalists, second to war-torn countries.
Most of the victims were those who wrote against illegal loggers, illegal gambling lords, and critics of government.Many of the accused were military and police men. Many of them have not been arrested or convicted, a United Nations report on political killings in the Philippines said.


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