DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A field reporter of a local radio station based in Tagum City who is covering a banana workers’ protest was arbitrarily arrested and detained by authorities, a journalists’ union reported on Tuesday.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) identified the reporter as Glenn Jester Hitgano of 100.7 One Radio News FM Davao del Norte-Davao de Oro.
Hitgano was interviewing protesting workers of banana company Philippine Development Farm in Carmen town, Davao del Norte province on Tuesday morning, January 21, when the incident happened.
In a phone interview with Davao Today, Hitgano said three policemen, whose names he could not identify, cut short his interview with the leader of the protest.
He was then brought to the nearest police station where an officer tried to handcuff him. Hitgano added that another policeman claimed that he had “insulted them by interviewing the protesters.”
The authorities also attempted to confiscate Hitgano’s phone and ordered him to erase the voice recording of the interview.
“They subjected me to psychological warfare and harassed me, saying I was not allowed to carry out interviews,” Hitgano said.
Hitgano was detained for an hour and was released only after convincing the authorities that he will not report about the protest.
The reporter said he covered the protest after receiving information that the workers were being harassed by uniformed men during the previous night.
In a statement on Wednesday, Altermidya, a national network of alternative media organizations and practitioners, condemned the incident, which it described as an attack against the free press.
“The arrest and intimidation of journalists like Hitgano is a blatant violation of the media’s task of exposing the truth to the public. It is pure assault not just on press freedom but on the public’s right to know,” Altermidya said.
The group also called for an independent investigation into the incident and that the Carmen police officers involved be held into account.
“State forces should be at the forefront of safeguarding rights such as free speech and expression, and not be the purveyors of abuse,” it added. (davaotoday.com)