Excerpts from this New York Times article:
April 3, 2006
The Philippines Wages a Campaign of Intimidation Against Journalists
By SETH MYDANS
MANILA, the Philippines — The Philippine news media, among the most exuberant and freewheeling in Asia, are coming under serious government pressure for the first time since the rule of Ferdinand Marcos more than 20 years ago.
Along with hints that the government may restrict public assembly, the campaign against the press strikes at the heart of the freedoms won in 1986 when Mr. Marcos was driven from the presidency by a popular uprising.
The pressure involves warnings, watch lists, surveillance, court cases, harassment lawsuits and threats of arrest on charges of sedition. No members of the press have been arrested, although three journalists have been charged with rebellion. No news outlets have been shut down, although troops surrounded several television stations for more than a week recently.
Journalists say the situation is particularly unnerving because of the uncertainty of what is happening or may happen to them.
"I have a number of people on my list," Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said in a recent television interview. "We are studying them."
This aggressive posture follows a one-week state of emergency imposed on Feb. 24 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in response to what she said was a coup attempt involving an array of enemies who have been calling for her resignation.
Since then, the police have broken up several gatherings that were seen as critical of the president and have briefly detained some participants.
The director of the National Police, Gen. Arturo Lomibao, has told news outlets that they must conform to certain unspecified standards, which it will be up to the government to interpret on a case-by-case basis.
He referred to a new catchall regulation that bans "actions that hurt the Philippine State by obstructing governance including hindering the growth of the economy and sabotaging the people's confidence in government and their faith in the future of this country."
Apparently, the goal of all this is to promote self-censorship, said Maria Ressa, senior vice president for news and public affairs at the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network, the nation's largest.
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