AlterMidya, a nationwide network of independent media organizations, denounces police intimidation and attempts to suppress information by preventing journalists from covering the aftermath of the April 1 Kidapawan massacre.
The Cotabato police set up a checkpoint outside the Spottswood United Methodist Center where the protesting farmers retreated after Friday’s violent dispersal. Setting up a checkpoint arbitrarily is already questionable, but preventing journalists from covering an issue of public concern and requiring them to register with the police before entering the church compound is even more reprehensible. The police even denied entry to reporters who have already registered at the checkpoint, according to our colleagues from radio outfit RCPA Davao last April 3.
The media were also prevented from interviewing those victims of the dispersal who were in police custody. Hospital officials reportedly informed the media that there were “orders from the police and municipal government” not to allow reporters to interview the victims. The police also refused to provide information on one of the dead victims, whose body was held by the police for autopsy and whom they claimed tested positive for powder burns using an outdated paraffin test.
On Saturday afternoon, reporters of 783 Radyo ni Juan were harassed by policemen deployed near the Spottswood Methodist Center. Policemen sand “One (Juan) Radio, one month na lang mo.” (One Radio, you’ve only got one month left.)
During the violent dispersal, Kilab journalist Jaja Necosia was also among those hurt when the police stoned the protesters. Necosia was wearing his press ID and taking photos of advancing police when he was hit. Davao Today correspondent Danilda Fusilero was also arrested by the police while she was covering the dispersal. Two police officers handcuffed Fusilero and accused her of being among the protesters. They removed her handcuffs only after she showed the police her press ID and was vouched for by a former North Cotabato official.
Media groups like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have condemned police harassment, intimidation and repression of journalists covering the Kidapawan massacre. But state security forces have been subjecting journalists to more and more violence when covering protests, putting in jeopardy their safety and the media’s critical role in gathering information on matters of public concern.
AlterMidya is therefore calling for an immediate and impartial investigation into both the violence the police unleashed against the farmer-protesters and media, as well as to stop the continuing and worsening harassment and attacks against the demonstrators and our fellow media practitioners. We also urge all journalists and journalist groups, media advocacy organizations, and press freedom advocates to defend the Constitutional right of the press to provide the public the information on political, social and other issues that it urgently needs.