The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Thursday, June 23, reminded the members of the country’s law enforcement agencies to respect the freedom of the press.
“Journalists and other members of the press enjoy a wide latitude of discretion in investigating and reporting news relating to public affairs,” the IBP said in a statement.
“Any intrusion into this liberty of speech and of the press risks depriving the public crucial knowledge of government affairs,” it stressed.
It reminded that in 2021, the Supreme Court (SC) declared that “without a vigilant press, the government’s mistakes would go unnoticed, their abuses unexposed, and their wrongdoings uncorrected.”
The IBP issued the statement after 11 journalists were arrested last June 9 and charged with malicious mischief and illegal assembly along with the persons they were covering for news reports.
The arrested journalists were covering the community planting called “bungkalan” at a disputed land in Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac.
“A heavy-handed approach to the charge of illegal assembly guts the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances,” it pointed out.
“As well, the practice of affiliating journalists by virtue of their mere presence at events of public interest is questionable,” it added.
The IBP also said:
“Journalists should not have to run the risk of arrest and criminal charges when they are discharging the constitutionally-protected duties of covering and reporting on matters of public consequence, such as land reform disputes.
“Zeal in law enforcement is always welcome. But it must be equal. If any leniency is to be dispensed then, let it be for the poor and the downtrodden, not to entitled individuals with a documented history for reckless imprudence. Lately, we see more compassion for the latter, rather than the former.
“Respect for constitutional rights is illusory if they do not apply to all. And strict adherence to due process should be the norm, not dependent on affluence or political leanings.”