New York, November 29, 2007 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is angered by the detention of about 17 journalists by Philippine police after a seven-hour standoff between a dissident group of soldiers and government security forces at the Peninsula Hotel in Manila’s Makati business district today. Some of the reporters were released in a few hours while others remained in detention through the night, according to the media rights group Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
The AP said the government justified its sweep by saying it would ensure that no rebel soldiers slipped away among the journalists.
“This sort of mass detention of journalists doing their jobs cannot be justified on the basis of a security and identity check,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “It is government interference in news coverage with an obvious intent to intimidate the media.”
Media reports say about 30 soldiers and their supporters broke away from their trial for involvement in a 2003 coup attempt, left the courthouse and took over the hotel. They called for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and called on the public to join them. The military sealed the area around the hotel and used tear gas and armored vehicles to drive the group from the hotel. Several shots were also fired as the standoff began. Hundreds of reporters were in the hotel by the time the military made its move to drive the rebels out, according to international news reports.