Interesting times for journalists

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As if to announce to the country and the world that being attacked for doing their jobs is still a fact of journalists’ lives in the Philippines, an assassin riding pillion on a motorcycle shot dead a radio broadcaster in Davao City last Christmas eve.

Francisco Lintuan was killed in his car when he stopped at an intersection, and was probably slain for his commentaries, thus making him the second journalist killed in the line of duty this year. Carmelo Palacios, another broadcaster, was killed last April 18 in Nueva Ecija’s Cabanatuan City. Both were noted for their harsh criticism of local corruption.

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Subversive

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Jesus Dureza, whose title as Presidential peace adviser is becoming more and more tenuous as the Arroyo regime’s attitude towards peace negotiations becomes more and more martial, has denied that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is supporting the “revival” of the Anti- Subversion Act.

But we haven’t heard any denial from the lady herself after she was reported to have said that she would support such a bill if Congress wants it. Based on the common experience of this unhappy nation, some Filipinos suspect that Mrs. Arroyo is allowing everyone to say their piece, but that, as earlier reported, she’s in favor of the bill “reviving” the Anti-Subversion Act that one of her House allies, Sorsogon Congressman Jose Solis, had told her he would file.

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More engaged than critical

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In one of those turn-arounds that seem possible only in the Philippines, the media are not only being blamed for the arrest of some 30 cameramen, media technical personnel, anchorpersons and reporters last November 29. They’re also being urged to accept a “protocol” the Philippine National Police is drafting.

Both indicate an effort to downplay the assault on press freedom that the handcuffing and arrest of media people was, and to instead turn the tables on the media by insisting that it was their fault; they asked for it. This approach was totally expected from the Arroyo regime’s police. It is consistent with police reluctance to look into the killing of journalists for which the Arroyo regime has been globally distinguished.

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Unfinished business

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The Arroyo regime is carrying on as if it were business as usual, despite the basement level approval ratings of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself as well as her entire Cabinet, the uproar over the arrest of media people last Thursday, and the regime’s imposition of a curfew in metro Manila and environs—and oh yes, the November 29 Peninsula incident itself.

The arrest of media people, continuing police harassment of TV network ABS-CBN, and the curfew were themselves indicative of regime resistance to any change in its policies and mindset. Despite what amounted to a policy statement over the weekend and before she left for Europe—“the media are not our enemy” and “don’t rile the media unnecessarily”—the police, for example, seem determined to intimidate (not “rile,” which means to annoy) the media, anyway.

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