MANILA - Journalists from foreign media outfits on Friday decried the Philippine government’s supposed move to bar them from covering two press briefings in Singapore, where President Rodrigo Duterte is set to attend the 32nd ASEAN Summit.
Foreign journalists were barred from covering the press briefing of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday and another one with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday.
The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) decried the government’s actions, saying these “clearly violate Constitutional provisions on freedom of information.”
FOCAP said foreign journalists on Thursday were blocked from Cayetano’s press conference but were later allowed access, although they were still prevented from asking questions.
“These incidents are not isolated. We note the earlier restrictions on press movements during coverage of the war in the southern city of Marawi and those who reported on the closure of the island resort of Boracay,” FOCAP said in a statement.
FOCAP noted that it held a meeting with Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Queenie Rodulfo in November 2017, “when she agreed to allow Filipinos working for foreign news agencies unfettered access to the president’s media events as well as other international press events.”
“Government must clarify and spell out clear guidelines on media coverage so as to avoid similar incidents in the future,” it added.
Undersecretary Feducia Mia Reyes Lucas, who is in charge of the Media Accreditation and Relations Office, said journalists from foreign media outfits were barred from the news conferences because these were “exclusive for [Philippine] media delegation.”
“We gave respect since they were the ones who asked for the briefing,” she added.
Lucas also stressed that barring foreign journalists from press briefings “is not the new norm.”
The government made these actions just as the Philippines’ ranking in the global press freedom ranking slipped.
The Palace has denied that President Duterte’s tirades against journalists has eroded press freedom in the country.
FOCAP also decried attempts in the House of Representatives to revoke media accreditation of those whose reports “besmirch the reputation” of the body.
“The rules give a wide latitude for interpretation and can be used to clamp down on the critical press,” FOCAP said.