Journalists condemn harassment of reporter at campaign coverage

Journalists condemn harassment of reporter at campaign coverage
Supporters of Bongbong Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte gather at a sortie in Quezon City where a journalist was harassed during coverage on April 13, 2022.
UniTeam / Released

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:22 p.m.) — Campaign staff of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. shoved aside a journalist attempting to interview the presidential candidate after a rally in Quezon City last Wednesday, during which she was also red-tagged by an anonymous Twitter user.

Marcos’ security staff blocked reporter Lian Buan from getting close to the presidential candidate. Then, one of his media relations officers, identified by the news outlet as Krizza Mendizabal, shoved the journalist’s wrist and kept putting down her smartphone, which she was using to shoot video.

Buan was then pushed by security personnel onto the scaffolding, which made her exclaim, “Aray! Ang sakit!”

On the sidelines of the same campaign sortie, Marcos granted an interview with SMNI for a special called “On the Road with the Frontrunner.” SMNI is a self-styled news network owned by fugitive preacher Apollo Quiboloy who has endorsed Marcos and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

As she was covering the Marcos sortie, Buan was also red-tagged by an anonymous Twitter user claiming to be a K-Pop fan. User @shiningtwicexo baselessly accused her of being “one of the high-ranking officials” of underground communist organs.

Buan is one of the directors of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which the Twitter user also called without basis a legal front of armed communist rebels.

‘Journalists pose no threat’

In separate statements, Buan's news outlet Rappler, the NUJP and the Movement Against Disinformation condemned the online and offline harassment of her.

“[Journalists] pose no security threat — unless the campaign team considers questions from independent media as security threats. This kind of media censorship, which involves physical force, is unacceptable in a country that protects free speech and a free press in its Constitution,” Rappler said.

The MAD said it is important that journalists can freely ask hard questions to candidates, especially those seeking the top elective post in the country.

"Shoving a journalist aside for doing what her job demands of her makes a mockery of this democracy and puts into question the modicum of respect we afford to those whose jobs involve fact-seeking and truth-telling," it said.

Meanwhile, the NUJP warned that the red-tagging of Buan has “implications on her safety, especially while covering the election campaign.”

“We have repeatedly said that there is no ideological test for membership in NUJP and we have members from across the political spectrum,” it said. “Asserting press freedom and advocating for media workers’ welfare are ideals that are part of the democracy that we say we are living in.”

Rappler appealed to the Marcos camp and its supporters “to be more transparent, to stop harassing journalists, and to respect the media’s role in a free society.”

Reporters covering the Marcos campaign have had a hard time gaining access to the presidential candidate who has largely been reclusive to mainstream media but has engaged with friendlier social media-based outlets and influencers.

In the rare incidents that reporters do get access to Marcos, he gave statements that drew flak, like saying that the Philippines should stay neutral on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that there is no need to prioritize the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.

Explaining Marcos’ dodging independent media and debates, his campaign said that they prefer communicating their messages “directly” to the people. — Xave Gregorio

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