Plan to file electoral sabotage raps vs journalists slammed
By INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines--A major media organization assailed reported plans of the Commission on Elections to file charges of electoral sabotage against two media personalities the poll body accused of cooking up stories meant to discredit its reputation. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it was "appalled" by the threat voiced by election commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer and called it "an assault on press freedom and freedom of expression." In a statement signed by chairman Jose Torres Jr., the NUJP called "ridiculous and outrageous" Ferrer's reason for filing the case -- to "cleanse the (journalism) profession" -- and his equating the alleged false news and comments of the unnamed journalists to electoral sabotage, a non-bailable offense punishable with life imprisonment. It also said Ferrer's threat to file the charges "betrays once more government's penchant for shooting the messenger instead of addressing the message." "This is the same mindset that is behind the official inaction that has worsened the culture of impunity in this country and emboldened those within and without government who would seek to cow the Philippine media into silence to continue their assaults, physical and otherwise, on journalists," it said. Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001, 53 journalists have been murdered, the highest media death toll under any presidency, including the 14-year Marcos dictatorship. They NUJP said it did not dispute Ferrer's claims against the media personalities, saying this was for the poll official to prove. "But to insinuate that the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å"many things they have manufactured...may involve electoral sabotage,' is stretching credulity too far for an agency whose credibility has already been badly tarnished by the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å"Hello Garci' scandal and the current brouhaha over Lintang Bedol, an agency, in fact, that many critics contend has practically sabotaged the very democratic institution it is sworn to uphold," it added. The group said Ferrer's failure to name the allegedly errant journalists, "while hinting they are ranking media practitioners with his reference to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å"airconditioned rooms,' is a misbegotten and limp attempt to sow fear among opinion makers and media executives."
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