Emergency actions cause alarm

February 27, 2006

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Presidential Palace
Manila, Philippines

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists views with alarm the threat to press freedom in the Philippines during the state of emergency you declared on February 24. Your administration’s tactics–raiding a newspaper, stationing troops in front of television and radio stations, and threatening to issue government editorial guidelines–jeopardize the democratic advances of the last 20 years.

Early Saturday, Philippine National Police officers raided the offices of the Daily Tribune, seized editorial materials, and threatened to take over the paper. In addition, troops were deployed around the Manila compounds of the Philippines’ two largest TV networks, ABS-CBN and GMA-7.

These actions–combined with threats to take over media entities for “aiding” your administration’s enemies or violating unspecified editorial guidelines–send a profoundly disturbing message about the limits of press freedom. They also serve to prevent journalists from accurately reporting on the crisis in your country.

Democracy in the Philippines has been threatened in the years since the 1986 revolution, but no administration has used the restrictive means your government has taken. It’s deeply disturbing to see political unrest threaten the precious and deeply held concepts of press freedom and democracy.

Ensuring a free and unfettered press is essential to preserving the democratic principles that re-emerged in the Philippines 20 years ago. We ask you to reverse the steps you have taken to control the media, and give them reassurances that they will be allowed to continue their work without fear in the future.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Ann Cooper
Executive Director