32nd ASEAN MINISTERIAL MEET: SINGAPORE – Foreign journos barred from Philippine press conference

THE Philippine government barred foreign correspondents from covering a press conference held in Singapore on Friday, which was mostly about the diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Kuwait.

The day before, the Philippine government prohibited them from asking questions in a press conference on the same topic.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said it was deeply alarmed by the Philippine government’s strong actions that clearly violated the constitutional provisions on freedom of information.

The group said the most recent case involved some Focap members, who were properly accredited by the government’s International Press Center, but were stopped from covering a news conference Friday by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello in Singapore, where he was part of a delegation to the Asean summit.

A day earlier, Focap members were Foreign blocked from a news conference given by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. They were subsequently allowed access, but were barred from asking questions.

In the House, a lawmaker said even if Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez signed a new memorandum enumerating “what reporters cannot do or write,” the implementors would find it almost impossible to enforce it.

The lawmaker, who requested anonymity, said the draft regulations were based on “subjective and ambiguous issues.”

“Thus, any decision made will be based on the biases of the official involved instead of cold, hard facts,” the lawmaker said.

Another congressman said those “who have drafted those rules may have had good intentions, but the result was disastrous for the House.”

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” the lawmaker said.

The Philippine government is holding press conferences in Singapore as President Rodrigo Duterte is there to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit accompanied by  Cabinet members.

In the previous press conferences of Philippine officials on the sidelines of international events, such as the Asean Summit, international journalists used to be allowed in as long as they had an IPC ID.

Focap said that, in a meeting with Communications Assistant Secretary Queenie Rodulfo in November 2017, “she agreed to allow Filipinos working for foreign news agencies unfettered access to the president’s media events as well as other international press events.”

“Government must clarify and spell out clear guidelines on media coverage so as to avoid similar incidents in the future,” Focap said.

Rodulfo, however, said she was not informed about the details of the briefing rules in Singapore, but the briefing of Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Friday night “is open for Focap members [ideally those accredited in Manila].”

“I don’t have direct access also on the schedule to be given/open to media,” she said.

Communications Undersecretary Mia Reyes earlier said that Focap members “were allowed to cover” Thursday’s press conference, but it was Cayetano’s call “to entertain Philippine issues only.”

These restrictions came after Malacañang barred Rappler from the presidential palace and all events attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Focap enumerated other incidents that curtail press freedom in the Philippines.

Those included “the earlier restrictions on press movements during the coverage of the war in the southern city of Marawi and those who reported on the closure of the island resort of Boracay.”

Focap also said it was “alarmed at reports that the House of Representatives has passed a rule threatening to revoke the media accreditation of those whose reports ‘besmirch the reputation’ of the body.”

“Focap, as an institution founded at the height of the repressive regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s, views these as a curtailment of our rights as a free press mandated by the Philippine constitution,” the group said.

Roque claimed on Thursday that Duterte’s tirades agposted April 28, 2018 at 01:25 am by Maricel Cruzainst media did not threaten press freedom, even as the Philippines’ ratings dropped in the World Press Freedom Index. /

Topics: Philippine government , foreign correspondents , Philippines , Kuwait, Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines , Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello

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