MANILA — Journalism professors and press groups in the Philippines questioned on Tuesday the government’s decision to impose media accreditation as the country's main island of Luzon is placed under “enhanced quarantine” because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a statement, they “strongly recommend that the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) rescind its decision to require accreditation of journalists and media workers who need to go to quarantine areas.”
“Requiring a PCOO ID in 72 hours is unnecessary. A valid press ID should be enough to establish the identity of a journalist and media worker even during the enhanced community quarantine,” the group said.
The group includes the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP), Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), University of Santo Tomas professor Felipe Salvosa II, and UP professors Lucia Tangi, Diosa Labiste, Khrysta Imperial Rara, Jimmy Domingo and Danilo Arao.
On Monday, the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 told media its personnel can travel within the quarantined areas only if they get a media pass from the PCOO, which is headed by Sec. Martin Andanar, a former TV and radio anchor.
“The PCOO should not give the impression that it wants to control the media and compromise independent coverage,” the group said. “The PCOO should know that requiring an additional media ID could be perceived by the public as a means to gag the press.”
They insist the media should have “editorial independence” so it can adhere to “the highest professional and ethical standards.”
“If government wants to suggest something from media owners, it is to provide their frontliners the necessary safety equipment and logistics to ensure effective coverage,” they said.
“In unfortunate cases that they show symptoms, affected journalists and media workers should be given proper medical care by their employers and the government. Indeed, the safety of journalists should be everyone’s priority.”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also called the PCOO requirement “unfortunate” as it “may prove counterproductive when vetted information from media professionals is most needed by the already nervous populace.”
“Media outfits have issued safety guidelines to their journalists. We are aware that we need to contribute to the resolution of this emergency and we can do it best by doing our jobs as journalists. Making it difficult for us to contribute does not help at all,” the NUJP said.
NUJP asked Malacanang to reconsider its decision.