BAGUIO CITY (Jan. 25) — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines’ Baguio-Benguet Chapter (NUJP-BB) Friday condemned the government for implicating a Cordillera-born journalist in the escape of a rebel soldier last year.
Dana Batnag, a Manila-based reporter of the Japanese Jiji Press and a native of Besao, Mountain Province was accused of aiding in the escape of Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon after the November 29, 2007 Makati standoff at the Manila Peninsula.
“We view the move as a part of a systematic witch-hunting campaign to intimidate media and disallow them to perform their task to bring relevant information to the public,” NUJP spokesperson Arthur Allad-iw said in a press statement.
The accusation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that Batnag aided Faeldon in his escape is devoid of merit the NUJP statement said, adding the video showing her allegedly aiding Faeldon obviously recorded a normal interview witnessed by several others who were in the hotel.
The local NUJP also challenged the PNP and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a case against any media person believed to have aided Faeldon and urged them to stop the witch-hunting.
“We are even proud of Dana as she bravely covered the conflict. It is proof enough that she unquestionably performed her task of bringing information to the public,” said Allad-iw, who hails from Sagada, also in Mountain Province. Allad-iw said Batnag’s participation in the Manila Pen coverage showed her commitment as a press freedom worker.
Earlier, the PNP floated the names of journalists Ces Drillon and Ellen Tordesillas as the ones who allegedly aided in the escape of Faeldon. These PNP acts reveal an insidious campaign to intimidate media which is either aimed to threaten their performance or simply silence them.
Allad-iw also asked local press people to stand firm against the media intimidation and to remain true to the calling to advance the people’s right to know.
Meanwhile NUJP welcomed the Supreme Court circular urging judges to forgo imprisonment as a punishment for media persons convicted of libel.
“Justice Puno’s bold move, one of many he has taken in defense of basic rights and liberties, gives us hope to continue calling on Congress to act on our demand to decriminalize libel,” said Rowena Paraan, NUJP national secretary-general.
According to Paraan, media will continue campaigning to decriminalize libel.
As this developed, a Butuan City freelance journalist was reportedly arrested and eventually jailed Tuesday for a libel case filed by a rape suspect four years ago. # Via NORDIS