MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Tuesday, February 20, slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for "displaying extreme pettiness" when he banned Rappler's Pia Ranada from covering events in Malacañang starting that day.
"Shame on President Rodrigo Duterte for displaying extreme pettiness in ordering Rappler reporter Pia Ranada banned from entering Malacañang Palace," NUJP said in a statement.
It noted that the President's directive was carried out "a day after his fair-haired boy, Special Assistant to the President Christopher 'Bong' Go, accused the news outfit and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of producing 'fake news' about his alleged involvement in the controversial frigate acquisition deal and deigned suggest they report about 'good things,'" the group said.
On Monday, February 19, Go testified at the Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy frigates deal, and denied that he tried to intervene in the Navy project.
The NUJP said Duterte's latest action against Rappler creates a "chilling" effect on the media.
Rappler, in a separate statement, said it's "another instance of power attempting to intimidate independent journalists." It praised Ranada for her courage in "asking the tough questions that demand clear answers." (READ: Rappler to Malacañang: Don't use power to obstruct)
The NUJP said: "When the highest official in the land chooses to wage a personal vendetta against an individual, whether a journalist or a media outfit, it sends a clear and chilling signal that everyone else better report only what he wants you to or else."
"This, to say the least, is anathema to democracy. But then again, hasn’t he openly bragged about being – or wanting to be – a dictator?" it added.
According to NUJP, the President’s latest move is an anathema to democracy. They noted that, while this comes as no surprise given that Duterte has openly bragged about his being a dictator, the move is nevertheless unbecoming of his office.
The group also slammed the Senate for allowing “itself to be used as a platform for Go to rail against media instead of getting to the bottom of serious allegations on matters affecting national security.”
At the Monday hearing, Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, and Richard Gordon took turns either vouching for Go's innocence or insisting on the lack of evidence against Go. By the end of the Senate hearing, Go said he was “vindicated” by the public forum.
NUJP called on the Filipino media to unite for press freedom and "to continue resisting all attempts to dictate what we can and should report."
“Nevertheless, we are heartened by the certainty that no self-respecting and independent Filipino journalist will allow this outright assault on press freedom and the people’s right to know from the president himself pass unchallenged,” it said.
Malacañang insisted on Tuesday that Rappler had effectively lost its SEC registration – and its Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) membership – when the SEC ordered the revocation of its business license, even though the ruling was under appeal and was not yet final and excutory. (READ: Rappler still free to continue operations – SEC)
SEC registration of news organizations is among the requirements for MPC membership of their representatives. – with reports from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com