By Joey Natividad
SORSOGON CITY (BicolToday.com/01-Oct-2012) – Prominent journalist- scholars rallied in support of fellow colleague, Bobby Labalan, who was beaten up by road contractor Joseph “Nono” Yap, and clamored to defend press freedom.
“We, the 2011 Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism fellows, condemn road contractor Joseph “Nono” Yap III’s recent attack against our colleague and Sorsogon Now editor Labalan,” said by the group in its statement sent to BicolToday.com
As reported, Labalan was beaten up by Yap in reaction to an Aug. 7 news report on the alleged irregular implementation of a road project in Prieto Diaz town, Sorsogon province. Yap challenged Labalan: “Nano kay tinitira mo ako (Why are you criticizing me)?”
The road contractor, who is the brother of mayor of Prieto Diaz, punched Labalan in public, and in the presence of Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee. The contractor also allegedly carried a gun during the confrontation.
“We see the attack as a move not only against Labalan but against press freedom,” said the journalist fellows. “We believe that Labalan, in running the story on a project which public officials eye for investigation, was guarding public interest by seeking and reporting the truth.”
Labalan is also national director of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the media group which has been on the front-line in exposing the spate of killings against journalists, and the State helplessness of such violence committed by persons hiding behind the “cloak of impunity.”
“We hold further than Labalan exercised fairness in his reportage, in accordance to the tenets of community journalism espoused by the Graciano Lopez Jaena Fellowship,” declared the group.
“The paper, Sorsogon Now, sought Yap’s side before running the story. He cannot claim that it was one-sided,” Labalan was quoted as saying after he was assaulted.
The journalists group has claimed that the fear stirred up by Yap’s attack against Labalan is the same fear brought out by the Maguindanao massacre which killed 58 persons, including 32 journalists, in 2009.
“It is the same fear that strongman Ferdinand Marcos used to silence the Philippine press during martial law,” said the journalists.
“It is the kind of fear that stifles press freedom, keeps the public blind and kills democracy.” [BicolToday.com]
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