Fri, 04 Jul 2003

To President Megawati

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) is deeply concerned over government efforts to restrict journalists' coverage of the continuing conflict in Aceh and the rising cases of repression on the island.

According to our information, Presidential Decree No. 43/2003 restricts foreign journalists to the major cities, unless otherwise accompanied by a military escort, and requires them to report their movements to military commanders in every place they cover. If journalists do not comply with these new rules they can be prosecuted and banned from reporting in Aceh, and removed from Aceh within 24 hours.

This is tantamount to prior restraint on the Press. Military escorts would hamper a journalist's task to get a total picture of the conflict, tapping as many voices as possible. Likewise, the presence of troops would just increase the physical dangers journalists already face in a conflict zone.

We also understand that foreign journalists must now register with the Foreign Ministry before they can obtain a permit from the Directorate General for Immigration and the Ministry of Justice before they can enter Aceh. In addition, we understand that there have been long delays in issuing the letters of recommendation that are required for foreign media to report in Aceh.

The NUJP also protests the new, oppressive rules covering local media, including the need for a permit before working for foreign media organizations, and the ban on sharing video footage with the foreign press.

INDAY ESPINA-VARONA, Vice chairperson, NUJP, Manila