AFP IMPOSES ANEW MEDIA PROFILING — from PDI reporter Julie Alipala, reporting from Zambo City

In the military’s Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) camp, reporters are now required to submit to a “profiling” process, according to Inquirer reporter Julie Alipala. For security reasons, they were told. This might be understandable if the reporters hadn’t been covering the camp for years and were familiar with many of the soldiers and the officers there. Some background information is usually asked of reporters who cover international conferences, such as the Asean. But the information does not include such personal details as the number of children one has. What is usually asked of a reporter focus on job credentials, such as the employer’s office address, immediate superior, and phone numbers.
So now the reporters want to know what security risks they pose and how telling the military how many children they have and where their families live will make the reporters less of a security risk. How will knowing all these details about the reporters covering them lessen the risk, as far as the military is concerned?
Esperat, let us not forget, was a Mindanao reporter. It is believed that she was killed for linking a former agriculture official, Jocjoc Bolante, to an anomalous project. Reporters in Cotabato City received threats only several days ago.
It would be okay, during normal times, to tell people where you live and how many children you have, even where they study. But these are not normal times, not when cases of killings and harassment — of reporters, activists and civilians alike — go unpunished.
Esperat, remember, was killed in front of her children. While a case has been filed in court, the suspected masterminds are now missing. Her killer, who has confessed, is an Army soldier. So please explain, again, why knowing where a reporter lives and how many children he/she has and where they stay will make the military feel more “secure”?
Anyway, here is Julie’s take on the issue. She posted this note on her Facebook page. She agreed to let me re-post if here on this blog.

Today at 20:42

More than a dozen of local journalists trooped to a restaurant to cover a gathering of families and friends of kidnapped victims.

It was a presentation of manifesto and a letter addressed to the chief executive of this country.

The atmosphere was emotionally charged with parents, siblings and friends sharing their respective sufferings, fears, longings, and helplessness over the spate of kidnappings down here in Southern Philippines.

We were all at the height of empathizing with the families when we saw two familiar looking uniformed Army personnel outside the press conference room.

A couple of media personalities Al Jacinto and Roel Pareno went out to inquire the presence of two Army guys, when they were supposed to be inside their office at the CIO in Upper Calarian.

Darwin Wee called my attention, including Pareno and Charlie Saceda.

They asked me to check on something.

When I went out of the room, Saceda and Wee showed me a piece of paper.

At a glance it’s like a piece of sheet likened to one that is sold in a bookstore, a bio-data paper that commonly secured by people wanting to find a job.

The difference was the headings on the paper, Western Mindanao Command.

I was really pissed off with that sheet or shit (for me an appropriate description).

“What is this?” I asked the two Army guys.

Both of them quite apologetic informed the media around they were just instructed by Major Eugene Batara Jr., the spokesperson to ask media to fill-up some forms for profiling.

Jacinto reminded the two Army guys that “we have had this kind of encounter before during the term of Colonel Daniel Lucero and we were all expressing strongly against it, now it’s again pursued.”

Jacinto further said “it is maybe an offshoot of Central Mindanao media encounter with an official Lt. Col. Bucu.”

One of the justifications made by an Army personnel is that “it will be useful for the CIO whenever they want to invite media for defense coverage.”

Jacinto emphasized then that Press Card is enough justification and it’s a legitimate document compared to the media profile sheet we are suppose to fill up.

I was thinking then during the gathering with the families of kidnapped victims that “how come the military, the police, the local officials could hardly come up with a profile of bad elements in Basilan.”

But they could easily impose certain policy such as media profiling.

Pareno, the President of Defense Press Corps who wanted to diffuse the seemingly growing tension (probably from my end) suggested the two Army personnel to inform Batara that “we cannot take, but if you will just delete some details in that bio-data we may consider it.”

I have spoken with Batara over the phone and according to him, there’s no point of arguing their policy because, “you and the others have even submitted the same thing in the past and we are just re-imposing it as a policy.”

I explained to Batara that “we didn’t submit anything for the Southern Command before, except the one that was required by the American soldiers for the coverage of Balikatan in 2002.”

During the Balikatan Exercise 2002, media from local, national and foreign were required to submit a profile likened to bio-data which according then to Major Cynthia Terramae is a requirement and for security reasons.

The document also served as a way to determine media people and its respective outfits and for easy facilitation of information and communication.

However Batara insisted the policy stressing out “it has been imposed except here at Western Mindanao Command, it’s been imposed all throughout the military camps in the country.”

Well in that case, I was thinking of boycotting any activities at the Western Mindanao Command and instead focus more on ordinary soldiers on the field for coverage.

Earlier we were already pissed off with PNP Chief Director General Jesus VErzosa’s order of banning media to open police blotters.

At the same time, I and some couple of media in Manila are doing some hunting down as to was or were media personalities consulted by Senate especially Nene Pimentel for the Right to Reply Bill.

It seems that I am seeing a bad picture when it comes to press freedom. JSA


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