By Martin Sadongdong
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) appealed to media on Saturday to be ‘more perceptive’ in reporting as he raised the possibility that violent extremists may use national and regional issues to spread fear and hatred to the public.
AFP chief of staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. made the statement as the conclusion of the Mindanao Media Safety and Security Summit held in Toril, Davao City that was organized by the Mindanao Independent Press Council, Inc. (MIPC).
“The AFP commits itself in forging partnerships anchored on effective coverage and media safety and security; not only in conflict situations but more importantly in environments where threats—physical and political— abound,” Galvez said.
“Terrorist organizations including the New People’s Army and Daesh-inspired groups have platforms and mouthpieces that exploit national and regional issues to advance their violent ideologies,” he added.
The military has consistently linked the communist rebels to some of the most violent incidents in the past, from political killings to the most recent one, the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental earlier this month.
“It is the media’s duty and responsibility to challenge enemy narratives that seek to glorify violence and discredit legitimate peace and development efforts of the government,” Galvez said.
However, the AFP chief was asked by MIPC to address media restriction in Mindanao and “the rising incidents of threats, harassment, and intimidation targeting members of the press who report on critical issues.”
In response, Galvez said that the military values media coverage “but there are greater considerations that come to play, especially in cases where high levels of confidentiality are warranted, thus limiting the access and coverage of the media.”
“Should there be a need for media practitioners to research and gather materials, especially in critical areas here in Mindanao, or if there are threats to your lives or safety, please do not hesitate to tell us,” Galvez noted.
He also assured that press freedom will not be affected by the implementation of martial law in Mindanao. “We have strictly ensured that our soldiers implementing martial law adhere to the rule of law,” he said.
Aside from Galvez, other top government officials who joined the summit included Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Presidential Task Force for Media Security (PTFMS) Undersecretary Joel Egco, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Dente Gierran, Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangundadatu, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Mujib Hataman.
The event, which started on October 25, was held as a venue for discussions on the challenges faced by media personnel and organizations in Mindanao and to promote safety and security for journalists covering conflict.