Philippines: student journalists harassed by army

  • 04 Oct 2023

NUJ supports call for an investigation into actions by armed forces threatening press freedom.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has joined the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in condemning the harassment and intimidation of student journalists by army officials in the Philippines.

On 21 September, student journalist Alia Joy Esperida was harassed by soldiers during the 51st anniversary Martial Law commemoration at Plaza Rizal. Officials took photos of her alongside other staff from student publication, The Democrat. Student journalists asked soldiers to delete images and requested the identity of the official responsible. Sergeant Creo, who questioned students at the commemoration, encouraged them to join an infantry division.

The following day, Esperida received a letter summoning her and her parents to meet with members of the Philippine armed forces. The Democrat analysed the letter and discovered it carried no official seal from the regional administrative authority of Naga City Barangay or any reason for the invitation.

Berlineth Nymia Montes, previous Editor-in-Chief at the publication was also pressured last month, with armed forces insinuating she was affiliated to Filipino terrorist organisations. The practice known as red-tagging has been used frequently towards journalists and condemned by the IFJ, NUJ and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

The NUJP has expressed concern over recent invitations to journalists, stating “That the military can essentially summon a journalist is troubling enough. That it would do that to student journalists is even more so.” The union has advised journalists to decline invitations and remember their right to legal counsel of their choice should they choose to attend.

The NUJ supports calls by the IFJ and NUJP for an immediate investigation into the harassment of student journalists.

The IFJ said: 

“The harassment, red-tagging, and summoning of student journalists from members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is deeply concerning, and a clear overreach of power. The IFJ calls on Filipino authorities to cease their harassment and intimidation of student journalists, ensuring that they can fulfil their duties without fear of reprisal.”

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