Lower House’s new rules for media coverage constitute prior restraint, NUJP says

The new rules threaten to revoke the accreditation of journalists who “besmirch the reputation of the House of Representatives, its officials or members.”

By BULATLAT

MANILA — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) maintained that the institutional codified rules for media coverage of the House of Representatives’ Press and Public Affairs Bureau (PRABB) is tantamount to prior restraint.

In a statement, the NUJP said the new rules threaten to revoke the accreditation of journalists who “besmirch the reputation of the House of Representatives, its officials or members.”

The PRABB said the rules were prompted by “a need to give more teeth to the House’s efforts of ensuring a systematic and orderly media coverage that will be beneficial to both the House and the media, and ultimately to the citizenry.”

“It bears remembering that there are those members in the lower house that do sterling jobs of besmirching themselves through their own words and deeds. Media simply report these faithfully,” the NUJP said.

The media group reminded those who crafted the new rules that prior restraint is unconstitutional.

Article III, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution states, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Moreover, Article III, Section 7 states: “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”

The NUJP added, “It is not surprising, though, that a chamber whose members have time and again proven themselves to be exemplary lapdogs of whoever is in power should seek to imitate, if not outdo, their principal.”

The group urged their colleagues covering the House of Representatives and the independent Philippine media to unite in opposing “this brazen attempt to trample free expression and information.” “ We owe it not just to ourselves but, most of all, the people whose right to know we serve,” the NUJP said. ()

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