Several journalists were attacked, threatened and arrested as they covered the strike of workers at the NutriAsia factory in Marilao, Bulacan in the Philippines on Monday, July 30. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) have denounced the attack as a clear attack on press freedom in the Philippines.
Nueva Ecija chapter deputy secretary general of the NUJP, Rosemarie Alcaraz was covering the strike for Radyo Natin-Guimba, when she began filming the dispersal when a guard asked her to go behind them. When Alcaraz compiled she was hit on her thigh with a baton, having to seek shelter. In a separate incident Joseph Cuevas, a reporter of Kodao Productions, was confronted by guards who threatened to destroy his camera if he didn’t stop filming. Both reporters had on ‘press’ identification.
During the dispersal, 19 people were arrested by police, including four journalists, Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza from AlterMidya, and Jon Angelo Bonifacio of the UP Diliman publication Scientia. According to NUJP, When Jola Diones-Mamangun of Kodao Productions went to the Meycauayan police station; she was denied access to documents. And when she asked about her arrested AlterMidya colleagues, was told that drugs and guns had been recovered from them. Other colleagues also quoted Meycauyan chief of police Superintendent Santos Mera of claiming they needed permits before they could cover events at the police station.
Nonoy Espina, the chairperson of the NUJP said: “The assault, threats and arrests of our colleagues is a clear attack on press freedom and highlights the increasing dangers journalists face in these increasingly troubled times. We demand that the Meycauayan police immediately release Saturay, Tandoc, Ang, Caluza and Bonifacio. We demand just as strongly that they forget the ludicrous notion of filing trumped up criminal charges against our colleagues. It will surely backfire – and very badly – on you. We likewise call on Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde to initiate an immediate investigation into this clear abuse of authority by his subordinates, particularly Mera, and impose the necessary sanctions.”
The IFJ said: “The actions of the local police and guards covering the NutriAsia strike against the media are a blatant violation of press freedom. The allegations against the arrested journalists are outrageous claims, simply made in an attempt to validate the police actions. We stand with NUJP and demand the arrested journalist be immediately released and all charges withdrawn.”
(The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries)