Journalists oppose government accreditation amid Luzon quarantine

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Journalists oppose government accreditation amid Luzon quarantine
Authorities man a checkpoint along Ortigas Avenue Extension which borders Cainta, Rizal to Pasig City on March 17 midnight as they enforce a stricter inspection at vehicles of passing motorists following the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated, March 21 11:56 a.m.) — Journalists, press freedom advocates and academics opposed the government’s directive to secure media accreditation from the Presidential Communications Operations Office to be exempted from the enhanced community quarantine enforced in Luzon.

As the government grapple with the rising cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Luzon will be placed under enhanced community quarantine and movement will be restricted.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases released guidelines which include that a special media pass for journalists covering different beats in Metro Manila will be issued.

“While we recognize the gravity of the situation, we assert that this imposition is unnecessary, unreasonable and unconstitutional,” media groups said in a statement.

They noted that the Constitution provides that there will be no law passed that will abridge the freedom of speech, expression or of the press. The right to information on matters of public concern is also enshrined on the Bill of Rights.

“Declaring that only media workers who bear the IATF accreditation ID as issued by the PCOO may be exempted from the strict home quarantine requirement as announced by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles clearly violates these provisions,” they said.

The statement was signed by the following media organizations:

  • AlterMidya
  • Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines
  • Concerned Artists of the Philippines
  • DAVAO Today
  • Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines
  • International Association of Women in Radio and Television-Philippine Chapter
  • Kilab Multimeddia
  • Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity
  • Mindanews
  • National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
  • Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
  • Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines
  • Philippine Press Institute
  • Rappler

The groups stressed that while the briefings of the task force and the Health Department are informative, there remain other crucial questions that remain unanswered.

The IATF initially said members of the press are given 72 hours to apply for accreditation to be exempted from the quarantine, but they later extended it until March 21.

FOLLOW: LIVE updates: COVID-19 in the Philippines and the Luzon quarantine

Information is critical amid health crisis

They pointed out that the public needs accurate, timely government information amid the pandemic.

“Officials, including those from the [Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police]. who engage the public media should immediately disclose if they have been exposed or infected,” they added.

“We cannot afford to end up like Wuhan, where the outbreak began. We will never know exactly what happened there and even exactly how many people died because of the extreme restrictions imposed on the delivery of information,” they stressed.

Wuhan, China is considered ground zero of the pandemic that claimed thousands of lives globally.

The journalists said that deaths in Wuhan may be due to people’s lack of access to adequate information.

“What concerns us most is the possible misuse or abuse of accreditation to try and control the free flow of information, a concern rooted in this administration’s record of open hostility toward critical media,” they added.

RELATED: Journalists across Southeast Asia face attacks for doing their jobs — IFJ

The groups said that even if the accreditation was ordered with good intentions, it remains untenable to the press freedom and democracy.

“We demand full respect for freedom of the press and of expression and an end to accreditation and any other attempts to control media,” they added.


Editor's note: Some editors, reporters and photojournalists of Philstar.com are signatories to the statement.

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