FOCAP ‘deeply alarmed’ over ‘restricted’ briefings by PH gov’t execs
The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Friday said it was “deeply alarmed” over recent incidents banning its reporters to cover press briefings by Philippine government officials.
FOCAP said some of its members, who were properly accredited by the government’s International Press Center (IPC), were stopped from covering a news conference by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello in Singapore on Friday.
The FOCAP added that some of its members “were blocked” from news briefing given by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.”
They were subsequently allowed access, but were barred from asking questions during the press event, the FOCAP said.
Bello and Cayetano are in Singapore as part of the Philippine delegation for the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.
“These incidents are not isolated. We note the earlier restrictions on press movements during coverage of the war in the southern city of Marawi and those who reported on the closure of the island resort of Boracay,” the FOCAP said.
“We are also alarmed at reports that the House of Representatives has passed a rule threatening to revoke media accreditation of those whose reports “besmirch the reputation” of the body. The rules give a wide latitude for interpretation and can be used to clamp down on the critical press,” it added.
Sought for comment, Undersecretary Feducia Mia Reyes-Lucas, who is in charge of the Media Accreditation and Relations Office or MARO, confirmed that FOCAP members were allowed to cover Cayetano’s briefing but were banned to ask questions.
“FOCAP were allowed to cover/ it was the call of SFA to entertain PH issues only,” Lucas said.
She also confirmed that FOCAP members were barred from covering Bello’s briefing.
“Yes, it was exclusive for PH Media delegation. We gave respect since they were the ones who asked for the briefing,” she said.
Asked if it would be the new norm on FOCAP members covering press briefings of the government, she said, “No, that is not the new norm.”
“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 media group said.
“We would like to recall a meeting with Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Queenie Rodulfo in November 2017, when 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,” it added.
In a statement, Rodulfo said she was “not informed on the incidents regarding the banning of some FOCAP members.
She, however, assured that the briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in Singapore on Friday night would be open to FOCAP members “ideally those accredited in Manila.”
“I handle Content unit and not Media Relations. I don’t have direct access also on the schedule to be given/open to media. Hope this clarifies the matter,” she said.
They called on the government to “clarify and spell out clear guidelines on media coverage so as to avoid similar incidents in the future.”
They called on the government to “clarify and spell out clear guidelines on media coverage so as to avoid similar incidents in the future.” /muf
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