Minority bloc pushes for exemption of journalists as witnesses in anti-drug ops

File photo of NUJP Chairperson Nonoy Espina (Photo by Lito Ocampo)

Although this law has been amended by Republic Act no. 10640 in 2014, journalists are still being pressured into signing their names as witnesses in anti-drug operations, sometimes even without them actually witnessing the operation, in exchange for the information they would need for their stories.

By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA— In an effort to exclude journalists as possible witnesses in anti-drug operations, representatives from Bayan Muna, ACT, Gabriela, and Kabataan filed House Bill no. 2995, known as the Journalists’ Exemption Law in the Eighteenth Congress.

The bill seeks to contradict the legal requirement under Section 21 of the Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which states that journalists could be made as witnesses during drug busts.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has long been pushing for the law to be amended, stating that the requirement has put a number of journalists in danger. Along with other media organizations, NUJP launched a campaign against this requirement, “Sign Against the Sign,” to urge Congress to amend the law.

In a statement, NUJP Chairperson Nonoy Espina said that some journalists found themselves at risk of retaliation from crime syndicates after signing their names as witnesses.

“One of our colleagues from Zamboanga del Norte has been receiving death threats from an accused drug dealer because she testified as a witness in the operation. She didn’t’ even want her name to be revealed because of fear. This has to stop,” Espina said.

He also shared how journalists from the Visayas, who have regularly signed as a witness on drug inventories, suddenly found themselves included in the drug watchlist.

Although this law has been amended by Republic Act no. 10640 in 2014, journalists are still being pressured into signing their names as witnesses in anti-drug operations, sometimes even without them actually witnessing the operation, in exchange for the information they would need for their stories.

The bill amends the changes made by R.A. 10640, and removes the media from the witnesses required to sign the copies of the drug inventory done after every operation.

“Journalists who decline can find their sources or the normal channels of information no longer accessible,” said the representatives.

“To end this dangerous and unfair practice, it is imperative that this Congress passes in the most expeditious manner an amendment to laws that endanger such situations.”

HB 2995 aims to ensure the safety of the media as well as help journalists and media workers to stay objective and factual while they report the government’s anti-drug campaign.(https://www.bulatlat.com)

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