Cops block Rappler reporter from covering release of 'Bakwit School' teacher

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Cops block Rappler reporter from covering release of 'Bakwit School' teacher
Screenshot of Rappler Visayas correspondent Lorraine Ecarma's video.
Lorraine Ecarma / Rappler

MANILA, Philippines — Police denied entry to a Rappler reporter into their headquarters Friday where she was supposed to cover the release of one of seven people arrested during a raid in February on a makeshift school for Lumad children.

Rappler’s Cebu correspondent Lorraine Ecarma said she was barred from entering the headquarters of the Central Visayas police in Cebu City while other media outlets like Cebu Daily News and The Freeman were allowed in. 

She said she was told that Rappler was a “fake news outlet” and was prohibited by plainclothes police officers from taking videos supposedly for “security purposes.”

Ecarma waited outside of the headquarters for nearly two hours before being allowed entry following orders from Police Lt. Col. Maria Aurora Rayos,Central Visayas police Public Information Office chief.

Although Ecarma was granted access, she said that Rappler is still prohibited from filming and police refused to be interviewed.

Rayos chalked up the incident to a supposed lack of coordination between her and Rappler, saying that this is important due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Bawal tayo pasok-labas, pasok-labas kasi pandemic,” she told Philstar.com.

(We can’t just be entering and exiting because there’s a pandemic.)

'Vital' part of the job

In a tweet, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa called the barring of Ecarma “another cut to the Philippine Constitution.”

Ryan Macasero, Rappler’s Cebu bureau head, said he “takes exception” to the way Ecarma was spoken to.

“We don’t have to be friends, but some basic courtesy is in order. We have been reporting on the arrest of the Lumad teachers/students since February and we will continue to follow the story until the end,” Macasero tweeted.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement that “interrogating the official narrative does not make a news organization or journalist ‘fake news.’”

The union added that filming and documenting are “vital parts” of journalists’ jobs and that documenting public events is neither illegal nor a security risk.

Not the first time

This is not the first time that Rappler reporters were barred access from places or sources of information.

In 2018, Rappler reporter Pia Ranada was prohibited from entering the entire Malacañang complex after she reported on the Philippine Navy’s frigates deal where then Special Assistant to the President Bong Go allegedly interfered.

The ban was then extended to all Rappler reporters at all of President Rodrigo Duterte’s events. Ranada and other Rappler reporters are challenging the ban before the Supreme Court.

The same year, Rappler reporter Rambo Talabong was removed from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s Viber group after its spokesperson, Derrick Carreon, was dismayed at how the journalist was covering the P6.8-billion worth of shabu that got past the Bureau of Customs.

Rappler is also at the receiving end of a battery of legal cases pursued by the government, described by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders as a “grotesque judicial harassment campaign.”

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