Nueva Ecija radio station risks raps for coverage of SAP distribution

Nueva Ecija radio station risks raps for coverage of SAP distribution
This satellite image shows Guimba in Nueva Ecija
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MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:59 p.m.)  — A radio station in Nueva Ecija condemned the local government of Guimba town for allegedly harassing its staff and threatening to file charges against them.

In a statement, Radyo Natin Guimba denounced the town’s council's approval of a resolution that authorized Mayor Jose Dizon to file a complaint against it for a supposed violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The municipal council cited the provision that penalizes “individuals or groups creating, perpetrating or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms…”

Section6 (f) of Republic Act 11468, or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, punishes the following:

  • Individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear or confusion
  • Those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails or other similar acts

Those found violating this provision may face two months imprisonment or a fine of not less than P10,000. Courts may also impose a fine of up to P1 million.

“Ang hakbang na ito ay tahasang pagkitil sa malayang pamamahayag katumbas ng pagkitil sa karapatan ng mamamayang humihingi ng ayuda sa gitna ng pagpapatupad ng [enhanced community quarantine] dahil sa pandemic ng COVID-19,” Radyo Natin Guimba said Wednesday.

(This is a clear curtailment of the free press, just like the curtailment of the rights of the poor asking for government support during the ECQ)

“Ano ba ang masama at nalabag sa sa ginagawa ng Radyo Natin Guimba na isaboses ang tinig ng mamamayan, marinig ang kanilang apela, reklamo at daing habang sila ay nakakwarantina at hindi makapaghanapbuhay,” it added.

(What is wrong with how Radyo Nation Guimba is giving the people a voice so that their appeals and complaints can be heard while they are under quarantne and cannot make a living?)

Radyo Natin Guimba also said that the police and local government officials harassed and threatened its field reporters over the station’s coverage of the distribution of the government’s social amelioration fund to residents.

It cited incidents of police accosting residents taking photos and videos of residents who ignored physical distancing when they flocked to the office of the mayor and the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office. The two were brought to the police station and allegedly asked to delete photos and videos they had taken.

The radio station also said that, on two separate occasions, members of the municipal council allegedly seized the press credentials of a field reporter and had a reporter leave the session hall.

“Hindi kami papayag sa mga ginagawang harassment ng LGU Guimba. Tungkulin namin na mag-ulat at magsiwalat ng makatotohanang impormasyon sa mamamayan na kanilang batayang karapatan. Hindi kami papayag na paglabag sa Bayanihan to Heal as One Act ang malayang pamamahayag,” Radyo Natin Guimba said.

(We will not let this harassament by the LGU of Guimba stand. It is our duty to report and broadcast verified information to the people, which is their right to receive. We reject the assertion that reporting freely is a violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act)

Philstar.com sought input from the local government of Guimba through its social media page but it has not responded to the query yet

NUJP: Don’t shoot the messenger

In a statement Thursday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called on the local government of Guimba to stop harassing the radio station and its staff.

“We denounce in particular the police’s clear overreach of their authority in accosting reporters and residents, ordering them to delete photos and videos, the seizure of a reporter’s credentials and the eviction of a reporter from the council session hall,” NUJP said.

The organization said it is the local government’s right to file charges but it stressed these must be truthful and not merely intended to harass the station and its staff.

“On the other hand, would it not be much better for the local government and its officials to simply confront whatever issues are raised against them by their own constituents instead of shooting the messenger?” NUJP said.

The Philippines placed 136th out of 180 countries on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index of Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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