A Zamboanga-based reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer was reportedly banned from covering military operations in Mindanao. A columnist of the Philippine Star meanwhile received death threats due to his exposé of an anomalous government contract.
BY ACE ALEGRE
Vol. VII, No. 33, September 23-29, 2007
A Zamboanga-based reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer was reportedly banned from covering military operations in strife-torn Basilan (located in the island of Mindanao).
Julie Alipala, also a national director of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said that Philippine Marine Corps Commandant Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino personally confirmed to her that she was banned, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
Rowena Paraan of the IFJ Media Safety Office quoted Dolorfino as saying, “When we were in Basilan, I was informed by (Task Force Thunder) officials there that they were under instruction from CSAF (Lt. General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.) that (Alipala) is banned to (sic) cover military activities, but I don’t believe them.”
The IFJ said that according to Alipala, an undisclosed informant confirmed Esperon’s order which was reportedly relayed by Task Force Thunder chief Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban.
When Alipala sought to verify it with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Lt. Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, Paraan said, the latter denied receiving such an instruction from Esperon.
In a statement dated September 22, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) stressed that the ban on Alipala from covering military operations in Basilan “is a violation of press freedom and the people’s right to know.” The NUJP also said that this is “pure harassment and an indication of the military’s penchant for human rights violations.”
Alipala reportedly earned the ire of military officials because of her reports on alleged military abuses and lapses during operations.
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lieutenant General Eugenio Cedo even walked out of a press conference last August 21 after castigating Alipala for reporting on lapses in the August 18 clash in Unkaya Pukan town in Basilan where 15 soldiers were killed by the Abu Sayyaf.
Paraan said that Alipala also received threats after the incident and was warned by contacts in the military that she should be careful.
In a related development, Jarius Bondoc, a columnist of the Philippine Star, sought the NUJP’s assistance after getting death threats allegedly due to his exposé on the government’s national broadband network project. “Bondoc has been receiving text messages warning him that he could be shot or his office bombed anytime,” NUJP said
The NUJP called on concerned authorities to look into these incidents. (Bulatlat.com)