Journalists hit media ‘profiling’ by AFP


Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:45:00 11/15/2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Several media groups have slammed the military’s attempt at media profiling here.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) has earlier asked journalists to fill up bio-data forms so they could be accredited.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called on local and national journalists to reject the imposition and for the military to withdraw such requirement.

“We, the NUJP, are incensed at the sudden requirement imposed by Maj. Eugene Batara, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, for journalists to fill up (a) bio-data form before they can be accredited for coverage,” said the statement.

NUJP secretary general Sonny Fernandez said the NUJP considers it not only an invasion of privacy but also “a subtle repression of press freedom.”

“It would give the Westmincom information office blanket authority to decide on who it will or will not consider a journalist, an authority it does not have the competence or legal right to possess,” Fernandez said.

Marlon Simbajon, regional coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (Pecojon) in Western Mindanao, said the Westmincom’s move was uncalled for.

“It must be properly evaluated before it is imposed. A dialogue with the media is helpful to resolve this matter,” he said.

However, Simbajon said he believed that Westmincom’s purpose was only to have “basis/reference in identifying the journalists covering the military beat and issue them an identification card from the command.”

But Fernandez said the information that journalists were required to write down in the form include facts that have nothing to do with their profession.

Among these are hair color, color of eyes, moles or markings and social security and income tax numbers.

Darwin Wee, chairperson of the NUJP in the Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas, said there was no need for them to fill up an information sheet anymore.

“Our press cards are enough. We don’t need press cards from the military to cover their activities,” he said.

Al Jacinto, editor in chief of the Mindanao Examiner, said five years ago, the former Southern Command also required journalists to fill up data sheets, that asked for details such as their bank account numbers.

Batara said the new requirement was meant to update the Westmincom’s defense corps.

“We saw the need to update the DPC records by calling on all active members to fill up an updated bio-data. It was also noted that some have changed outfits and others were no longer active or assigned to different beats or areas,” he said.

In Davao City, an official of the Philippine Information Agency called the WestMincom’s move as “stupid.”

“It’s a stupid idea of accrediting private media because there is no need (for it),” Efren Elbanbuena, PIA director for Southern Mindanao, said.

He said if Westmincom was interested in knowing who the legitimate journalists were in its area of jurisdiction, it could have simply coordinated with the PIA office in Western Mindanao. Julie Alipala with a report from Joselle R. Badilla, Inquirer Mindanao

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